Innovation Spotlight: Kum & Go Balances Modernization With Familiarity

The retailer aims to give its customers “empowered choices.”
Angela Hanson
Senior Editor
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Kum & Go worker

DES MOINES, Iowa — Kum & Go LC takes a deceptively simple approach to innovation. The Des Moines-based convenience store retailer defines the word as giving its customers what they want, when they want it, where they want it — something easier said than done in a rapidly changing market.

One thing more c-store customers want than ever before is quality, convenient food.

Kum & Go met that demand by rolling out a new fresh food menu at its stores in and around Little Rock, Ark., in 2021 and then expanding it to the Omaha, Neb., market. The offering of made-to-order grain bowls, premium sandwiches on fresh-baked bread and blended smoothies has since expanded in availability and will eventually reach all Kum & Go stores in the coming years. 

We’ve been after this idea of ‘democratizing healthier convenience store food’ from the beginning — giving customers something different, including healthier, better-quality options in the food space, without sacrificing convenience store roots of being a quick, convenient stop,” Jac Moskalik, Kum & Go’s vice president of food innovation, told Convenience Store News.

The key, she believes, is to balance innovation and familiarity.

“We’re also after the concept of ‘empowered choices,’” she said. On the healthier front, we want customers to feel good about their choices and what they put in their bodies with healthier and craveable offerings. But we also want to offer their long-time favorites, so they can indulge if that’s what is right for them that day.”

This balance extends to the menu itself, which features selections that would traditionally fit in a quick-service restaurant (QSR) setting, with the guiding tagline of Real, Fresh, Fast Eats.”

We are setting up our ingredient quality standards; that isn’t normally found in the c-store space. Our menu offers ingredients you wouldn’t typically expect, such as brown rice in our lunch/dinner bowls, spinach in our breakfast bowls,” said Natasha Ratzlaff, Kum & Go’s director of category management, food. But we are still bringing the fun c-store flair to the menu. Some of the toppings on our menu offerings include Takis, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and Corn Nuts — all of which you’d typically expect to find only in center store.” 

To guide the development process, Kum & Go conducted numerous studies on types of customers, what they desire from food on the go, and how their shopping habits and trends are changing both now and in the future. The retailer also learned a great deal from the new food program’s initial pilots in Arkansas and Nebraska.

Since its debut, the retailer has relaunched the fresh food offering with additional selections, including freshly made grab-and-go breakfast burritos and made-to-order breakfast bowls featuring the choice of a breakfast potato or wilted spinach base. The menu now boasts four premium breakfast burrito varieties and three lunch burrito options.

In addition to using trial and feedback to relaunch the menu with extra items, Kum & Go introduced web ordering for customers to purchase both food and merchandise. Customers can decide whether to pick up their orders in-store, or have them delivered curbside or to the fuel pump with a minimum fulfillment time of just 10 minutes.

Kum & Go’s menu innovation will have a long-term effect on how it plans stores. New-build locations are being constructed with the new food program in mind; even if they won’t open with the offering in place, they are being built in a way that will make it easier to retrofit them in the future. The program’s rollout is expected to be completed in the Des Moines market this year, followed by Colorado starting in mid-2023 with the Colorado Springs market.

The food program also will be part of the chain’s new market operations in Salt Lake City, Grand Rapids, Mich., and Boise, Idaho, from day one. Kum & Go currently operates more than 400 convenience stores in 11 states.

We will always be in a state of innovation and feedback,” Moskalik said. That’s how we feel we will continue to grow and succeed.” 

About the Author

Angela Hanson
Angela Hanson is Senior Editor of Convenience Store News. Read More