SCHAUMBURG, Ill. — As the foodservice category becomes ever more important to the convenience store industry, Eby-Brown Co. LLC is working with its retailer partners to deliver prepared food programs that are tasty, easy to execute, and that meet the continually evolving preferences of consumers.
Naperville, Ill.-based Eby-Brown has historically been foodservice focused, while Westlake, Texas-based Core-Mark Holding Co. Inc., which was acquired by Eby-Brown's parent company Performance Food Group (PFG) in 2021, has long been focused on fresh. Together, the companies are leveraging their respective strengths.
"The companies' areas of expertise complement one another," Curt O'Rourke, vice president of merchandising at Core-Mark (previously vice president of merchandising and procurement at Eby-Brown), discussed with Convenience Store News during the recent Eby-Expo Midwest event.
The second of the distributor's dual annual trade shows was held April 13-14 at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center Hotel. The event highlighted multiple foodservice initiatives c-store retailers can take advantage of, including:
Latin cuisine and Mexican fare are huge in foodservice right now and continue to grow year after year, but they are under-indexed in the convenience store segment, according to the distributor. Eby-Brown seeks to help retailers fill this unmet need while keeping the preparation process simple by focusing on tacos, burritos, bowls, quesadillas and salads. The company offers unique spice blends for authentic flavors, and its fully cooked chorizo is designed to be a standout that avoids the common greasy mouthfeel.
Perfectly Southern Fresh Fried Chicken
This turnkey, one-stop-shop program is designed to offer significant flexibility. The combination of a marinating process that provides juicy and flavorful chicken and "key" breading that is crunchy and tasty results in high-quality chicken. Eby-Brown also offers "waffle dust" as a topping to capitalize on the growing popularity of the classic Southern chicken and waffles dish. Retailers can choose to offer a full-blown chicken program with family meal deals, or stick with the simplicity and ease of chicken tenders.
Red Seal Pizzeria
This pizza program features par-baked crusts for pizzas that can be prepared in 30 seconds and cooked in just three minutes using a high-speed oven. Prior to acquiring Eby-Brown, PFG was known for its Italian food, and this program uses its proprietary Bacio cheese with a touch of buffalo milk to add a stretchy pull.
Launching June 1, this program will offer genuine, slow smoked, fully cooked barbecue. Available proteins — pulled pork, pulled chicken, beef brisket and smoked sausage — can be used in a variety of formats ranging from simple sandwiches to full meal deals.
Eby-Brown's deli program is designed to encourage retailers to be creative in their offerings and fulfill customer desire to visit a particular c-store because it has something no one else does. The program supports made-to-order sandwiches, subs and hoagies; bagels, muffins and breakfast sandwiches; soups and salads; and desserts and snacks. C-store operators are encouraged to use the Deli 55 program to decide on a showcase item they want to be known for.
Trendspotting on the Show Floor
Eby-Expo Midwest also highlighted a wide range of supplier partner companies.
Product trends seen on the show floor included:
Gummy candy brand extensions, such as Skittles Sours Gummies and Starburst Airs from Mars Wrigley, and Jolly Ranchers Gummies from The Hershey Co.
Extreme spicy flavors in a variety of formats ranging from Blue Diamond XTREMES, which come in "ultra-spicy" cayenne pepper, ghost pepper and Carolina reaper varieties; Spicy Pringles Scorchin' potato crisps; and Pillsbury's Jalapeño Cheddar Place & Bake Scone. Additionally, No Man's Land Beef Jerky representatives noted that "anything with heat" is doing well right now.
Amped-up indulgence, such as Prairie City Bakery's packaged Ooey Gooey Molten Lava Cakes, which can be enjoyed at room temperature or heated.
Cannabis-adjacent products, such as odor eliminators, that are getting a boost as THC-derived products grow in legality and availability.
Southern-style food, which is becoming trendier with staples such as chicken and waffles growing in popularity regardless of region.
Eby-Brown's parent company, Richmond, Va.-based Performance Food Group, has a nationwide network of more than 100 distribution facilities. PFG markets and delivers food and related products to 200,000-plus locations, including independent and chain restaurants, schools, healthcare facilities, vending distributors, office coffee service distributors, big-box retailers, theaters and convenience stores.