More than two decades ago, Greg Lorance discovered where he wanted to work—Cumberland Farms. Today, he and the company are facing the future together.
By David Bennett, Senior Editor
It’s been a long time since Greg Lorance worked the third shift at convenience retail chain Cumberland Farms. As an 18-year-old clerk at the time, he always performed every task assigned to him with a sharp eye for detail.
Fast forward 22 years and Lorance, Cumberland Farms’ senior category manager for dispensed beverages, still pays attention to the details. In fact, it’s his due diligence and commitment to quality that has reinvented the c-store’s coffee program, which is why CSD chose to honor Lorance with a 2015 Category Management Award.
Once an unremarkable offering, Cumberland Farms now has emerged as a coffee destination for patrons. That transformation didn’t happen by accident. Cumberland Farms is a regional chain of 550 convenience stores based in Framingham, Mass., and operating primarily in New England and Florida.
According to Lorance, who moved through the ranks as an assistant store manager, store manager and district manager before taking over the beverage category in 2008, Cumberland Farms had designs on foodservice being a cornerstone of its merchandizing strategy, especially coffee.
“It was decided around that time that if we were going to be viewed as someone creditable in foodservice, then we would have to have a great coffee program,” Lorance said. “We had to be known for that and build trust in the general marketplace. If we couldn’t do coffee well, no one was going to believe that we could do food well.”
As family-owned Cumberland Farms has been transitioning more of its stores to its AIM platform, which focuses on fresh design and fresh offerings, including foodservice and hot beverage. The evolution of Cumberland Farms’ coffee revamp begins with its Farmhouse Blend coffee brand, which Lorance has taken from a concept to a mainstream offering that drives customer traffic.
First, the c-store had to figure out how to better compete with the flavor profile of such competitors as Dunkin’ Donuts.
“Taste preferences (of customers) are extremely subjective, so you have to test, test, test to make sure you’re delivering on that,” Lorance said. “I know there are some category managers out there who think they have the magic palate, that if it tastes good to them then it’s good. I think that’s the most absurd thing that a category manager could think.”
The intent, Lorance said, was to get the product offering in front of consumers, so they could decide if the blended brew was something they wanted to buy every day—except on many Fridays.
Cumberland Farms offers its Farmhouse Blend year-round at just 99 cents any size, any day of the week. Perhaps even more unique is the c-store’s ‘Free Coffee Fridays’ promotion, which has been an ongoing program the last few years. “It’s the whole day, it’s any size, it’s 100% free and no purchase required,” Lorance said. “It’s one of the big catalysts that have driven volume year after year.
Though the pricing initiative has drawn more customers into Cumberland Farms’ locations, it’s the quality of the coffee that keeps patrons coming back for more.
Over time, the program has added espresso-based offerings, creamers, sweeteners and flavorings to provide customers a fuller experience.
As a result, coffee sales have been going strong.
“The volume we’re doing today is considerably higher than what it was when I took it over, with fewer stores,” said Lorance, who still handles cold and frozen drinks as part of his job. By expanding that category, which has incorporated more fountain and frozen flavors as part of its Chill Zone branding, the company is enjoying more growth in that dispensed category as well.
By conducting regular market studies, Cumberland Farms is ensuring he stays ahead of the curve in terms of product innovation, visibility and customer satisfaction.
With a constant eye on detail, Lorance sees even more opportunity in the future, especially with an improving economy that is going to help support even more product innovation as consumers seek vast variety.