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The Industry Buzz

Don Longo
Editorial Director Emeritus
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You couldn’t leave last month’s NACS Show in Atlanta and not be upbeat about the growth opportunities in the convenience store industry.

Our team of editors spoke with retailers, suppliers and distributors, and here are some of our observations about the state of the c-store business:

Vaping concerns were the talk of the show

Retailers were nauseous just thinking about the potential of new regulations to restrict the use of vape products. Juul Labs seems to be doing all the right things — pulling popular flavors (as required) and fighting underage use with a new POS system. It was pointed out by numerous people that not a single death or illness to date has been tied to a Juul product and hopefully it stays that way.

Alternative tobacco is hot 

On the positive side, other alternative tobacco products were all the rage. Altria’s IQOS heat-not-burn product and on! nicotine pouches; Reynolds’ non-combustible vapor/nicotine products like Alto, Revel and Velo; and other new products in the oral nicotine category are attracting retailers’ interest.

The energy category is reenergized

Coke Energy will add new zing to a hot category that is seeing lots of innovation. Caffeine-free, natural, no-sugar, fitness/performance attributes and more were all on display by the various beverage companies. There was also lots of buzz about the impact Bang has had on the energy drink category.

Going crazy in the cold vault

In addition to the above-mentioned energy category, the entire cold vault is undergoing tremendous change. We’re seeing continued shrinkage of space for traditional carbonated colas, new offerings in flavored and sparkling waters, new Generation Z targeted flavors (Gomega Mango Passionfruit, anyone?), and new sports drinks.

The CBD boom is real 

Despite no clear scientifically documented benefits, CBD in products ranging from health and beauty (tinctures, creams, lotions, pills) to food (gummies, beverages) have captured retailers’ attention. It’s already being dubbed the “next hot category” for c-stores.

Mainstream focus on technology

The technology section of the NACS Show has become one of its hottest areas, as retailers look for the solutions they need to stay competitive in today’s fast-changing market. Frictionless, digital transformation, mobile and network connectivity were among the buzz words heard throughout the tech section.

Premiumization and clean labels boost foodservice 

Better-for-you options haven’t replaced traditional favorites or indulgent items in prepared foods, but demand for premium products and clean-label ingredients was evident on the show floor. Hot and spicy also remains a major food trend. In coffee, new bean-to-cup equipment and single-origin brews had a significant presence, while cold brew has reached mainstream status.

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