Smoothies are becoming part of the cold and frozen dispensed category as consumer demand for fresher ingredients increases.
According to the National Association of Convenience Stores’ (NACS) State of the Industry report published last year, cold dispensed beverages comprised 7.3% of total foodservice category sales in 2017, while frozen dispensed beverages encompassed 4.7%.
Cold dispensed beverages generated sales of $3,663 per store, per month, while frozen dispensed beverages accounted for sales of $2,357 per store, per month.
Riding this wave, La Crosse, Wis.-based Kwik Trip’s 625 stores recently installed Fresh Blends’ self-serve equipment, producing fruit smoothies, cold-brewed drinks and shakes.
“We worked with the company for a couple years to get it up and running,” said Paul Servais, Kwik Trip’s retail foodservice director. “This self-serve frappe and smoothie machine makes real fruit smoothies and frozen coffee drinks.”
Guests select what they want from an interactive screen and the machine automatically produces it using dual blades and blend-in-a-cup technology.
“This was the one missing piece of our cold fountain offering,” said Servais.
Since the program began early this year, fresh smoothies and frappes are already 25% of cup sales. Fountain comprises 56% of the cold beverage category. Fresh smoothies and frappes now comprise 40% of sales dollars, compared with fountain, which is 41%. And fresh smoothies and frappes are 54% of gross profit dollars for the category, compared to fountain at 28%.
Prior to the program, Kwik Trip offered shakes and slushies, but there was a need for frozen coffee and high-quality smoothies at its stores.
“We found that people want to see these products being made, so they know it’s fresh and what they’re getting, and this machine delivers that,” said Servais.
Kwik Trip has discovered that from a cup and dollar standpoint, these products have a better ring and may even surpass fountain revenue.
“Even early on and during winter, our stores are doing 100 drinks a day out of this machine, and some stores are serving 200 of these beverages daily,” said Servais.
He added for Millennials and Generation Z, frozen dispensed is the fastest growing beverage outside of dispensed frozen carbonated.
“We’re late in the game, but these self-serve machines keep labor down and allow us to sell a lot of quality drinks,” Servais said.
As for trends, many are reflective of the food category overall.
“Many items that come to c-stores get there because they have caught on in other parts of our lives,” said Daniel Levine, director of the Avant-Guide Institute.
With the popularity of cold-brew coffee rising exponentially, and now on tap at any number of coffee shops, it is a good fit for c-stores with the convenience and price-point factors.
“Several companies are now selling bag-in-box cold-brew coffee for home consumption, and this is exactly the way that c-stores that are not already riding this trend can benefit from it with ease,” said Levine. He also salutes 7-Eleven Cap’n Crunch Berries Slurpee as a breakfast option.
- According to NACS’ State of the Industry report, cold dispensed saw sales of $3,664 per store per month in 2017.
- Kwik Trip has seen beverage sales soar with shakes, fruit smoothies and cold-brewed drinks and shakes.
Demand for Smoothies Up
More and more, smoothies are becoming part of the cold and frozen category as consumer demand for fresher ingredients increases. In a recent beverage report, Datassential examined the most menued smoothie ingredients and flavors in 2018. The top seven ingredients are fruit-based.