When thirsty customers enter convenience stores they have a myriad of beverage options to select from. Shoppers can choose a ready-to-drink beverage from one of several cooler doors, or they can head to the fountain section and pour their own cold or frozen dispensed beverage.
The dispensed beverage or fountain area contains a wide variety of refreshment options. Some convenience stores feature a range of soft drinks, juices and iced tea as well as frozen beverages like slushes in the cold dispensed beverage area.
Customers might select the dispensed section over the cooler doors for a range of reasons. One may be that they want a smaller or larger size drink compared to the sizes available in the cooler doors. They may also prefer to include ice in their drink. Many c-stores allow customers to select from various types of ice in the dispensed beverage section — from nugget ice to full-sized cubes. Others are attracted to the price point. In fact, some c-stores offer free refills with the purchase of a special cup.
The dispensed section also allows customers to mix and match flavors and customize their drink — for example, a customer may opt to fill a cup halfway with lemonade and halfway with iced tea to make the popular ‘Arnold Palmer’ beverage. Or perhaps they want to combine all the soft drink flavors together to make their own special concoction — a practice popular with kids. If you like to combine half Diet Coke and half Regular Coke — it’s no problem when dispensing your own beverage in the fountain section.
The dispensed beverage category at convenience stores has continued to evolve. Today many convenience stores are increasing the number of fountain drink options they offer, with some adding 14+ options at the fountain machine. Some retailers are adding healthy dispensed options like sugar-free iced teas, kombucha or trendy juice flavors to the lineup. At the time of this writing, one c-store executive noted that coconut was a popular flavor among the frozen dispensed beverages, while cold dispensed juice drinks with spicy flavors like turmeric and ginger were trending well. Other retailers have seen success with energy boosting beverage options, including iced coffee.
Customer preferences vary by region, but most retailers agree the key to a successful dispensed beverage program is keeping the top sellers flowing, while testing exciting new and trendy beverage varieties to attract customer attention to the segment. To drive foodservice sales, some c-stores incorporate their dispensed beverage program into combo meal deals, such as buy a hot dog and chips and get a free medium-sized fountain drink.
Dispensed beverage equipment also continues to evolve. Notably, Coca-Cola’s Freestyle machine puts a modern spin on dispensed beverage dispensing with its touchscreen technology and sleek design.