More than ever, consumers are looking for variety, convenience, speedy service and value when it comes to purchasing cold and frozen dispensed beverages, said Tandy Arrant, business manager for Lubbock, Texas-based United Express convenience stores.
Over the past year, Arrant said, the stores have experienced double-digit sales increases in this category, and he expects that trend to continue over the next year or more.
Arrant said that equipment, such as the Coca-Cola Freestyle machine, give c-stores a leg up on competing with quick-service restaurants, such as Sonic, which has long promoted its wide selection of beverage flavors and combinations as a competitive advantage. United Express has installed Freestyle machines in two of its stores, a brand new store and an existing one. “We expect big things from this machine because we feel that customers, especially younger ones, are looking for more variety in their beverages,” Arrant noted.
Arrant added that, although United Express does not have them yet, flavor shots may be one of the next big things. Some convenience stores are doing these now, he said, and United Express is looking at it with an eye toward the future.
Flavored iced teas are also becoming increasingly popular. United Express currently offers three flavors, but plans to change the flavors out more frequently in the coming months.The company is also planning to offer more flavors of frozen slush beverages to give customers a wider range of choices. Arrant said frozen drinks, including f’real milkshakes and frozen cappuccinos, have racked up double-digit sales increases at the stores as well.
Arrant pointed out that aside from its product offerings, United Express believes that a major reason its cold beverage sales are soaring is because customers like the convenience and speed of ordering them through the drive-through windows that are in seven of its eight stores.“People are in a hurry and that’s not going to change,” he said.
In a c-store foodservice report, Chicago-based Technomic research firm said that in 2012, frozen dispensed beverage sales totaled $410 million. Slushy/icee drinks accounted for 72% of frozen beverage sales, frozen coffee 22%, smoothies 4% and other 2%. Between 2012 and 2015, the researchers anticipate a growth of 5.7% in the category. In the slushy/icy category, they predict a 3.5% increase, thanks to the growth of new varieties and flavors. Frozen coffee drink sales are expected to rise 11% by 2015. ◆