Alternative Ingredient Snacks Woo Customers

Consumers’ quest for healthier snack options is changing the face of traditional c-store offerings. By Howard Riell, Associate Editor. A new national study by Amplify Snack Brands and the Center for Generational Kinetics indicates Millennials have been the driving force behind the growth of the better-for-you snack category. Among the findings, 64% of Millennials—more than

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Clearing a Path for Smokeless

Despite unexpected challenges, smokeless tobacco sales continue strong gains. By Howard Riell, Associate Editor Expectations are high for the long-term health of the smokeless tobacco category, which has been performing strongly since last year. Bonnie Herzog, managing director–equity research beverage, household & personal care, tobacco & c-stores for Wells Fargo Securities LLC, reported recently that

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Cigar Market Remains Competitive

Despite a full-court press from regulators, cigar sales are still on the rebound. By Howard Riell, Associate Editor When the original Tobacco Control Act was signed into law on June 22, 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was given “authority to regulate the manufacture, distribution and marketing of tobacco products.” The government was

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Meat Snacks Gain Weight

Convenience store customers crave variety, which is a big draw in today’s meat snacks category. By Howard Riell, Associate Editor From a wide variety of flavor offerings, including specialty meats, to various textures and forms, the meat snacks category succeeds in meeting consumers’ desires. The category is well positioned at what some refer to as

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E-Cigs at Critical Juncture

After a meteoric rise in the market during the last few years, the future of e-cigarettes now rests with regulators, innovators. By Howard Riell, Associate Editor The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s deeming regulations on vapor products could shift the $3 billion that e-cigarettes/vape are estimated to generate this year in brick-and-mortar stores to

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Cigars Press On

More regulatory policies continue to exert a downward pressure on the resilient category. By Howard Riell, Associate Editor As fall turns into winter, convenience store operators continue to track the trends—both commercial and legislative—affecting the cigar category. From concerns over deeming regulations to consumers’ ongoing desire for smaller, cheaper cigarillos, new flavors and limited-time promotional

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Beer Changes With the Times

While demand for beer is on the rise, changing demographics and state laws are helping shape the adult beverage segment even more. By Howard Riell, Associate Editor In terms of volume sales, the largest beer category continues to be mid-priced standard lager, which accounted for a 43% share of total U.S. beer volume sales last

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Sales of Accessories Heat Up

Though lighters and other tobacco accessories remain fortified by cigarettes, other tobacco products and related offerings promise to generate robust sales. By Howard Riell, Associate Editor Business remains steady in the tobacco accessories category, with much of the industry buzz focusing on accessories for a pair of unrelated product lines—electronic cigarettes and legalized marijuana. In

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Weighing Open-Loop Cards

Convenience stores can generate more customer interest with the right prepaid card program. By Howard Riell, Associate Editor Open-loop prepaid cards present an ongoing opportunity for c-stores, especially since the prepaid market is fostering activities that are putting more of these types of cards in consumers’ hands. Open-loop is a term most often associated with

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Car Washes Still Sparkle

A car wash can be a profitable venture for convenience stores, but retailers should ensure they do their homework.  By Howard Riell, Associate Editor A well-run car wash operation can do plenty of good for a convenience store, from driving traffic to promoting value and squeezing revenue out of more of the site’s square footage.

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Boosting Your Data IQ

From analyzing customers to assessing their inventory, more convenience stores are using operational data to their advantage. By Howard Riell, Associate Editor Today, collecting data is clearly essential for convenience store retailers. But capturing and making use of the most pertinent information—from customer analytics to competitive intelligence—can spell the difference between operating in the black

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Cigars Lighting Up Sales

With consumers reaching for interesting flavors at still low prices, cigars—especially cigarillos—continue to move briskly off of convenience store shelves. By Howard Riell, Associate Editor According to IRI’s convenience store statistics for the 52 weeks ending July 10, 2016, cigars notched nearly $2.7 billion in sales, a 6.19% increase over 2015. Units rose 10.17%. To

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The Art of Negotiation

Many convenience stores that rely on vendors to supply their retail operations know there’s some give-and-take involved when it comes to relationship building. By Howard Riell, Associate Editor Part of running a profitable c-store business involves effectively negotiating supply contracts and employing solid direct store delivery (DSD) management. Both require experience, a command of a

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Kitchen Helpers

Before investing in foodservice equipment, convenience store operators must consider tangibles such as flexibility, return on investment, market demographics and menu offerings. By Howard Riell, Contributing Editor Purchasing, operating and maintaining foodservice equipment is becoming increasingly important for convenience stores, making experience, expertise and careful management essential. All of the factors that go into an

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ATMs Generate Returns

ATMs have always been valuable tools for c-stores, and with the possibility of rising debit card fees, that value figures to rise. By Howard Riell, Associate Editor In an economy where more and more U.S. consumers have less access to big bank accounts, ATMs are still considered a viable commodity in the convenience store channel.

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Meat Snacks Feed Demand

Meat snacks appeal to consumers for a lot of reasons, and each of them presents opportunities for c-store operators to bolster sales. By Howard Riell, Associate Editor Most snackers prefer savory quality, robust flavors, inherent convenience, relatively low price points, health benefits and, of course, related promotions. Savvy retailers know how to take the best

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Cigars in the Light

For convenience stores that count on margins from cigar sales, the FDA recently introduced uncertainty into the mix. By Howard Riell, Associate Editor The ongoing legislative assault on tobacco products continues, leaving c-store operators with unanswered questions about the future of their tobacco sets, including cigars. The latest is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s

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RYO Faces the Future

Roll-your-own (RYO) tobacco isn’t immune to regulatory policy, but still has the equilibrium to remain a solid industry player. By Howard Riell, Associate Editor Roll-your-own (RYO) tobacco remains a segment in flux, tied as it is to such diverse factors as the health of the economy, the price of gasoline and stiffening federal and state

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Sweet Snacks Pack Variety

While indulgent sweets are still preferred by many U.S convenience customers, more consumers are spending their snacking dollars on healthier options. By Howard Riell, Associate Editor Convenience store operators continue to walk a tightrope, balancing consumers’ love of sweet snacks with their intent to eat healthier. Still, America’s sweet tooth isn’t going away any time

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Salting Away Sales

Americans’ continuing hunger for salty snacks is keeping convenience stores at the forefront of a booming industry. By Howard Riell, Associate Editor Americans’ love of salty snacks continues unabated as snacking occasions increase, shelf sets include more variety, spicier flavors gain wider acceptance and niche marketing grows in importance. The snacking trend continues to gain

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Paying Heed to Food Safety

With the increased emphasis on quality foodservice, maintaining in-store equipment is necessary for keeping a clean image. By Howard Riell, Associate Editor In the wake of the publicized instances of food-borne illnesses such as the Norovirus outbreak at Chipotle, more convenience stores are protecting their operations against similar operational risks. Many c-store operators are looking

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How to Brew a Better Coffee Program

More convenience stores are expanding their coffee programs to deliver quality and value to customers. By Howard Riell, Associate Editor Convenience store operators are growing increasingly creative with their coffee programs— emphasizing quality and variety, while engaging and educating consumers on the latest category offerings. According to a recent Packaged Facts report, innovations are providing

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How Meat Snacks Are Evolving

Because consumers have a variety of options, flavors and textures to choose from, this hearty category promises to be even more profitable in 2016. By Howard Riell, Associate Editor New flavors, healthier options and combination packs have created a marketing force that promises to drive meat snacks sales even higher in 2016. With more emphasis

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What’s Ahead For Cigarette Sales?

If increased cigarette shipments are any indication, category sales could be robust in 2016. By Howard Riell, Associate Editor This past October, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau reported that cigarette shipments for the first half of 2015 had increased from the same period the previous year—the first year-over-year increase in cigarette shipments

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Art and Crafts

Craft beers continue to entice convenience customers with homestyle brands and broader selections. By Howard Riell, Associate Editor Craft beer has been a surprising boon to the convenience store channel for the last couple of years. As more specialty beer options have flowed, consumers have spent more and retailers have responded in kind with a

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