A total of 512,000 servings of milk.
That, in a nutshell, describes the results Circle K Stores Inc. saw from its participation in this year’s The Great American Milk Drive, which ran Sept. 1–30 with Circle K as the first-ever major convenience store retailer to participate in the Milk Processor Education Program’s (MilkPEP) national program.
“We’ve seen great retail success with grocery stores for The Great American Milk Drive, and we are proud to partner with Circle K to apply learnings and optimize the opportunity for the convenience store model,” said Victor Zaborsky, vice president of MilkPEP. “We are dedicated to creating partnerships that can help deliver much-needed milk to local food banks, engage shoppers and build community presence around an important cause.”
The Great American Milk Drive’s goal is to secure highly desired gallons of nutrient-rich milk for millions of hungry families in partnership with Feeding America. The multi-year effort has three key periods: June Dairy Month, Hunger Action Month in September, and the holiday giving season when one-third of annual giving occurs.
Milk is one of the most requested items by food bank clients year-round because of its essential and nutritional value. However, Americans aren’t as likely to donate milk because it is perishable vs. canned and dry goods, the most donated items, according to MilkPEP. Because of this, food banks on average are only able to provide the equivalent of less than one gallon of milk per person per year, explained Zaborsky.
This is where the influence of convenience stores in large markets can make a difference. C-stores have a unique opportunity to make a significant impact in their communities by helping deliver much-needed milk to local food banks, he noted.
“Specifically optimized for the retail environment, the [Milk Drive] program can help lift fluid milk sales without discounting, drive foot traffic in-store and bring in new customers by doing good and strengthening retailers’ community presence,” said Zaborsky.
This September, more than 3,800 retail stores across the country — including nearly 600 Circle K and Kangaroo Express convenience stores — participated in this year’s drive. As a result, hundreds of thousands of servings of milk were donated to families in need through Feeding America food banks. The results exceeded last year’s Hunger Action Month totals.
As the pilot for c-store participation in The Great American Milk Drive, Circle K launched its “Milk For Kids” program on Sept. 1 to coincide with MilkPEP’s campaign. Through Sept. 30, the Milk For Kids program took place at more than 600 Circle K and Kangaroo Express stores in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, where donations were collected through in-store checkout programs.
By developing Milk For Kids in conjunction with The Great American Milk Drive, Circle K was able to take advantage of the support and materials provided by MilkPEP, while customizing its activation to build awareness for its own program, Zaborsky explained.
“Circle K’s large, coordinated effort paid off, impacting each local community. Beyond their efforts to engage customers to participate, Circle K leveraged its relationships with business partners like Pepsi Bottling Co. and Bon Appetit for contributions, resulting in more than 600 additional gallons donated to the program,” he said. “Local milk companies who serve Circle K and Kangaroo Express stores in the Southeast region supported the effort as well, including Dean Foods which donated 500 gallons to the cause. The passion these stores had to make a difference really showed with their amazing results.”
Achieving success with this c-store pilot, MilkPEP is now looking forward to exploring long-term opportunities with Circle K, as well as other c-store operators.
“Based on the success Circle K had in activating The Great American Milk Drive, we’re eager to explore partnerships with other convenience stores to engage their shoppers with this relevant, local cause that helps kids and at the same time drives sales,” Zaborsky said.
CIRCLE K’S PERSPECTIVE
Convenience Store News caught up with Misti Mason, category manager for Circle K, to get her take on the results of the pilot program. Here’s what she had to say:
What were the results of the Milk For Kids program?
In total, we raised over $160,000 in just four weeks to provide 512,000 servings of milk to local food banks across the Southeast. We are proud of being able to help educate our shoppers about the need for nutrient-rich milk in food banks and build our community presence, while bringing new traffic to our stores and driving incremental sales of milk.
In what ways did Circle K activate to drive results for the program?
Stores across the Southeast featured signs within aisles and on the dairy case, as well as signs on gas pump dispensers and window clings, to build awareness and encourage shoppers to donate. Employees were well-informed on the Milk For Kids program through breakroom posters, program “playbooks” and ongoing email communication, and wore buttons to encourage customers to ask them about the donation program. These efforts, along with local media opportunities, helped our shoppers understand the local need for milk in food banks and gave them easy ways to support the cause with $1, $3 or $5 donations.
We coordinated with local radio stations to host remote broadcasts on-location at stores in four key markets during the program, to engage with customers and encourage listeners to donate at their local Circle K or Kangaroo store. Additionally, we generated local media coverage to spread awareness of the need for nutritious milk in food banks, and inform communities that a donation of as little as $1, $3 or $5 would help deliver gallons of milk to families in need in their community.
What was the customer response to Circle K’s involvement in The Great American Milk Drive?
Customers were very receptive and eager to donate, knowing their donations would stay local and help our community. Our store managers were especially excited about the program. Throughout the month, they shared results from their stores with each other and encouraged each other to raise even more donations for this great cause.
Did Circle K gain from this experience all it hoped to?
We are very proud of the success of the Milk For Kids program. The program aligned well with our mission and commitment to the communities we serve. In addition to raising more than 512,000 servings of milk for local food banks, we were able to build our community presence and bring new consumer traffic to our stores. All around, it was a win-win-win for Circle K, the communities we serve and The Great American Milk Drive.
We’re thrilled with the impact we were able to make as the first convenience store to activate, and we hope other stores see the value and opportunity to help their communities by partnering with this important cause. There is a true need for donations of nutrient-rich milk across the country, and we can help.