“People are drinking a lot of coffee,” said Chris Moynihan, director of foodservice for Station Management Consultants’ Sunoco-branded Food Marts, which operates 14 c-stores around Philadelphia.
According to the National Coffee Association (NCA) National Coffee Data Trends 2019, 63% of people reported drinking coffee within the past day — one point down from 2018 but a 6% increase from 2016. Past-day consumption of espresso-based beverages is at an all-time high of 24%.
And more coffee shops are opening to meet demand. Mark DiDomenico, director of customer solutions for market research firm Datassential, said the number of coffee shops in the U.S. is still growing, with a 9% increase in 2019. And Starbucks actually outpaced that growth, he said, with almost 11% growth in the number of units in 2019.
“Just when you thought you couldn’t see another Starbucks popping up, they continue to grow,” DiDomenico said.
And while the number of coffee shops likely won’t continue to increase at the same pace, growth is expected to continue in 2020.
This leaves c-stores with steep competition for the coffee drinker’s dollar.
About a year and a half ago, Station Management Consultants’ Sunoco-branded Food Marts partnered with a local roaster to come up with a new, proprietary blend, and ultimately an entire coffee brand.
The chain now offers a full-service coffee bar called Piccolo Joe Coffee at two of its locations, as well as a Piccolo Joe Coffee Express concept at four locations.
“We wanted to be ahead of the curve,” said Moynihan.
The company is able to track the product in its entirety, ensuring high-quality coffee for customers that’s 100% organic.
Thanks to the success of Piccolo Joe, the company now offers wholesale coffee products, including k-cups, bags and ready-to-drink (RTD) cans of nitro cold brew.
Knoxville, Tenn.-based Pilot Company, which operates more than 900 retail and fueling locations in the U.S. and Canada, continues to see the cold-brew and iced coffee trend grow, along with its bean-to-cup coffee program.
To date, more than 85% of the chain’s locations offer bean-to-cup coffee, which guarantees fresh, hot coffee is available at all times. In 2020, the company plans to finish installs at all remaining locations.
Among the trends, Jimmy Fleming, manager, category-beverage at Pilot Company, said the company sees freshness and quality as increasingly important to its customers, as well as customization, variety and sustainability.