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Break Time Never Takes Break on Beverage Innovation


COLUMBIA, Mo. — Ask any convenience store retailer what the top obstacle they face in the cold vault is and the answer will not surprise you: limited space. It's the same stumbling block found around every c-store category, according to Jennifer Bach, director of marketing for Break Time. However, that does not mean you shouldn't try new things in the packaged beverages space.

The Break Time convenience store chain is owned and operated by MFA Oil based in Columbia, Mo. There are currently 74 Break Time locations operating in Missouri and Arkansas.

"Space is typically at a premium inside a c-store for any product. This is especially true in the cooler doors," Bach explained. "Space is typically contracted with your bigger beverage players, which makes it very difficult for the smaller players to intro new products."

That being said, "consideration should always be given to new products, especially those lines that are trending upward," the marketing chief advised.

When it comes time to make decisions on what new products to add to the cooler, Break Time tries to capitalize on those lines that are growing — and ideally finds the needed space in those parts of the packaged beverages segment that are on the decline.

Overall, packaged beverages accounts for approximately 41 percent of Break Time's beverage sales. Broken out even further, carbonated soft drinks (CSDs) makes up the lion's share of its beverage sales (40 percent), followed by energy drinks (21 percent), bottled water (13 percent), tea (9 percent), sports drinks (7 percent), juice (4 percent), and coffee (4 percent).

"CSDs have seen a decline in recent years as energy drinks have spiked. Water and tea have shown steady growth," Bach said, adding that cold packaged coffee is a trend to watch.

Any convenience store retailer looking for a standard playbook for managing packaged beverages and its varied segments will be looking for a long time, according to Bach, as it is not one-size-fits-all when it comes to the category. "Many factors go into managing this [business] — markets, demographics, regional preferences, cooler size."

Similar to other in-store categories, beverage sales at Break Time "ebb and flow," with the warmer months lending themselves to higher beverage sales, she noted.

Break Time uses promotions on its packaged beverages, but does not limit deals to certain seasons, holidays or events — think Super Bowl or Fourth of July. Instead, the chain runs different types of promotions on different products all the time. "Our favorites are the 2-for-1 offers that increase sales volume both on the offer and single-unit sales," said Bach.

Bundling packaged beverages with other categories is always effective, too. "We recently bundled our private-label bottled water with a fresh fruit purchase," she said. "We are trying some new things with our mobile app and loyalty program as well." 

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