CHICAGO — From first-time winners Casey's General Stores Inc. and Huck's Market to perennial standouts Rutter's, Wawa Inc. and Texas Born (formerly Kwik Chek), this year's slate of Convenience Store News Foodservice Innovators Awards winners is an exceptional group of top-notch convenience foodservice operators.
Each year, Convenience Store News recognizes c-store retailers that are raising the bar on quality, service and innovation in the foodservice category. Now in its 11th year, the Foodservice Innovators Awards program has been recognizing best-in-class convenience foodservice retailers since 2012. Winners are chosen annually by the CSNews Foodservice Advisory Council, a panel of foodservice experts from the retailer, supplier, wholesaler, research and consulting fields.
This year, Casey's, the Iowa-based chain known for operating one of the country's premier pizza programs, leads a slate of five Foodservice Innovators Awards winners.
Foodservice Innovator of the Year: Casey's
Judges praised Casey's overall foodservice and beverage offerings, and especially lauded its new breakfast menu, which launched in September 2021.
"For a company their size, they continue to show that they won't rest on their laurels," one judge remarked. "We all know breakfast is our busiest food time, so innovating that menu is key. Utilizing their homemade dough to make sandwiches, along with adding breakfast bowls, was a great idea."
Prepared Foods Innovator of the Year: Texas Born
Judges on the CSNews Foodservice Advisory Council cited how well this company executed its name change and brand positioning from Kwik Chek Food Stores to Texas Born (TXB) and, in turn, developed a highly unique and proprietary fresh food offering.
This is the second time the retailer has won this award, having been recognized in 2020 as Kwik Chek, which illustrates the consistency of its program.
Hot Beverages Innovator of the Year: Wawa
Judges lauded Wawa's community care vehicle, which provides hot coffee and hot chocolate to health care workers, as "an innovative way to get one of their signature products to customers," while also providing a valuable community service.
Another judge praised the quality of Wawa's hot chocolate: "Their Gold Medal Hot Chocolate is almost as good as what you might find on a San Francisco Hot Chocolate crawl. The timing of their rollout was perfect, too."
Wawa was previously named Foodservice Innovator of the Year in 2013 and 2017.
Cold & Frozen Beverages Innovator of the Year: Rutter's
Several judges cited the innovation of Rutter's Xtreme Shakes and all the new flavors rolled out in the past year. Additionally, one judge noted: "Rutter's is hitting their core customer with spiked slushies. Way to go!"
Rutter's is no stranger to this awards program, having won the overall Innovator of the Year title in 2012, 2018 and 2021, and Prepared Foods Innovator in 2013.
Foodservice Innovator to Watch: Huck's Market
Recognizing an up-and-coming leader in convenience foodservice, several judges noted that Huck's is investing a lot of resources into its enhanced foodservice offering.
"As they grow, they continue to look at new ways to expand foodservice options," said one judge. "Adding kitchens to their new stores and giving customers more reason to shop their stores is a big win for them. Great job!"
The 2022 Foodservice Innovators Awards winners will be profiled in the October "Innovation Issue" of Convenience Store News.
In addition, all of the winners will be honored at CSNews' 2022 Convenience Foodservice Exchange event, which will take place June 21-22 in Savannah, Ga. Through expert presentations and interactive discussions, convenience foodservice operators and their supplier partners will explore how to meet consumers' new demands.
Registration is free to all convenience retailers. Manufacturers and solution providers can participate as sponsors. For more information, visit csnewscfx.com.