The 2023 NAG Conference wrapped up on Wednesday, March 29 in Austin, Texas, with a working breakfast session, a general education session and lastly, an ideas boot camp that focused on best practices.
Foodservice and Digital Programs
During the working breakfast session, speakers Abbey Karel, vice president of business development, convenience retailing for Bounteous; John Lofstock, executive director for NAG; Kalen Frese, foodservice director for Warrenton Oil Co.; and Jerome Hunsinger, fresh food marketing brand manager at Wawa Inc., explored how consumers are using digital platforms to engage with c-stores and how retailers are maintaining their foodservice base with technology.
Bounteous recently released a consumer research survey that focuses on the impact digital technology has on c-store foodservice sales.
“In our study, we found that because grocery has things like curbside pickup and two-hour grocery delivery windows, 49% of customers who use these offerings are visiting c-stores less,” said Karel.
However, c-stores are the go-to place when it comes to loyalty programs and rewards, but foodservice is the next frontier for growth opportunities in c-stores, according to the survey.
“Having a food offering shouldn’t just be an add-on. It should be a part of your overall message and experience with your brand from the pump to the app to the website, digital signage and anything else in between, “ said Karel.
Frese went on to mention how he is using digital programs for the foodservice category at FastLane stores.
“With our Monday Giveaways on our FastLane app, we give away a free item every Monday on the app,” said Frese. “One Monday we might give away a drink, while another Monday we give away snacks. We found that this giveaway is a really good driver for app usage and a way to get new foodservice or other products in front of customers.”
Frese then discussed how his app strategy fits into his overall brand strategy.
“Our FastLane app is super important because anything we can do to keep the customer on the app is great,” said Frese. “We also do coupons and different things to get customers interacting with our stores. It’s all about keeping the FastLane name and brand in front of customers.”
Nonetheless, online foodservice ordering can really change the business model for c-stores.
“I think online ordering can open retailers up to anything and everything and allow customers to order whatever they want,” said Frese. “Convenience stores offer so much more, which gives customers the endless possibilities of getting what they need.”
In the last general session of the 2023 NAG Conference, moderated by Erin Del Conte, executive editor of CStore Decisions, panelists Nick Triantafellou, director of marketing and merchandising at Weigel’s Inc.; Rachel Puepke, vice president of marketing at CEFCO; and Alan Adato, senior merchandising and procurement manager for Yesway/Allsup’s convenience stores, discussed why they are continuing to develop and expand private-label products.
The discussion kicked off with the retailers explaining the private-label products they have in their c-stores and what consumers are wanting from the labels.
When it comes to private-label products, Yesway took on many of these products when it acquired Allsup’s c-stores. The company has over 200 private-label items when combining Yesway and Allsup’s.
“Five steps retailers can take if they are interested in privet labels is strategy and positioning, product packaging, supplier, marketing and distribution,” said Adato.
CEFCO recently did a rebrand of its private-label products.
“Our rebranded private label is now called Ya’ll, with our logo being ‘Giving Back Never Been So Good,’” said Puepke. “This is about proceeds from the purchases of our private label going to the Fikes Foundation. The Fikes family is who started CEFCO. “
Products in the Ya’ll private label include water and CEFCO’s point-of-purchase (POP) system, which says, ‘Welcome To CEFCO Ya’ll.’
Weigel’s started as a private-label company with its milk 92 years ago that was delivered to consumers. However, as the market changed and milk delivery went away, the company had to figure out how to get milk to consumers.
“We had to find guidance when rebuilding our private label. The first thing we had to do was identify how a private label would help us,” said Triantafellou. “We also had to look at the categories, who are our consumers, how can a private label help my company make more money, start small and then scale and improve.”
Along with CEFCO, Weigel’s made water one of its private-label brands.
Lastly, the retailers gave advice to other retailers looking to implement private-label products in their stores.
“You have to know your consumer because they are the ones that will frequent your stores and keep coming back,” said Puepke. “It’s also important that retailers look and brand is consistent in stores.”
“Trust the data as well,” said Adato. “If you have access to syndicated data or cash register sales, it can be used to find the right category for private-label products.”
NAG closed the conference with an ideas boot camp conducted by Brian Unrue, director of operations at Clark’s Pump-n-Shop and Lofstock.
During the boot camp, topics including company culture, wages, employee incentives and labor were discussed with members of the audience. Another topic the boot camp touched on was self-checkout and how retailers are implementing self-checkout kiosks in their stores.
The next NAG Conference will take place from March 10-13, 2024 in Tampa Bay, Fla.