Retailers are adding bean-to-cup coffee dispensers, barista programs and more to elevate their coffee offerings.
Some 58% of operators reported sales of hot-brewed regular or decaf coffee increased over the past year, according to Datassential’s “2023 C-Store Keynote Report,” fielded online in October and November 2022.
Hot dispensed beverage sales are flat at Green Zebra Grocery’s three locations in Portland, Ore., as erosion in basket size and number of trips to stores result from “people conserving their pennies,” said Lisa Sedlar, CEO of Green Zebra Grocery. But she believes with a few tweaks and some promotional focus, the company can perk up sales.
“We offer regular drip coffee and barista-served espresso drinks,” she said. “Because our best seller has always been the 12-ounce regular coffee, we’re going to focus on ways to make that offering more interesting and promotable.”
Because “Portland people are passionate about their coffee,” Sedlar explained that the stores will be expanding their variety from one local roaster to additional local micro roasters for its Drip City (a play on the city’s basketball team’s nickname Rip City). Portland has 50 or more roasters, and Green Zebra will partner with different ones monthly.
“Partnering with community roasters is a win for everyone,” she pointed out. “It’s good exposure for the roasters and it gives our customers something different.”
A new addition to the five-coffee lineup in the stores is half caff.
“It’s been doing fantastically, and I think it will continue to do well,” Sedlar noted.
The company also uses its Zebra Cash loyalty program to promote its coffee. Offers have included a buy 10 get one free on coffee or espresso and a value bundle of coffee and pastry (buy a pastry and get any size coffee for $1).
Coffee sales are also flat at B-Quik’s three locations in Baton Rouge, La., according to David Schumaker, general manager. Currently the store setup is drip, featuring Community Coffee, a brand “born and bred in Baton Rouge.”
Schumaker said he believes that bean-to-cup brewing is the future for coffee at c-stores.
“I’ve done a lot of research about it and was waiting until it could brew coffee in less than a minute because our customers want their coffee fast as well as fresh,” he explained. “It can brew under 30 seconds now, so we think it’s time to make the move.”
The bean-to-cup system also makes sense because it eliminates the tie-up of clerks during high traffic times. It also eliminates waste (“although we still sell a good bit of coffee and never have to throw a lot away,” he said).
The National Coffee Association’s “Coffee Data Trends (NCDT) Report” published in September 2022 noted that in July 2022, 33% of past-week coffee drinkers said they buy coffee away from home at least four times a week. Another 56% buy coffee away from home one to three times per week.