MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. — Eby-Brown Co. LLC offered its convenience store customers a path into a more tech-savvy, convenient future by previewing its new mobile app at the 2016 Eby-Expo trade show, held April 28-29 at the Blue Chip Casino, Hotel & Spa in Michigan City.
The app, which does not yet have a final name, combines the functions of three existing Eby programs and increases the flexibility with which c-store operators can make product orders and returns. It also offers in-depth data points and information about specific products, and lets users see a lifetime review of their order history. They can also set standard order benchmarks for certain items in order to facilitate proper in-stock levels.
Meanwhile, supplier attendees that exhibited on the Eby-Expo floor showcased a number of new products and trends. In the beverage aisle, ready-to-drink tea continues to be a growth segment. Argo Tea caters to consumers looking for an all-natural, better-for-you option in a glass bottle, while POM Wonderful's POM Tea aims to offer interesting flavor combinations. Peach is the top flavor among POM customers, followed by sweet tea, according to a representative.
Consumers looking for a hot drink are being drawn to the coffee section with limited-time offers and seasonal flavors, said exhibitor WhiteWave Foods. Millennials in particular are very interested in the origin of their coffee beans.
Snack suppliers at Eby-Expo 2016 demonstrated a commitment to both flavor innovation and healthier products. Oh Snap! Pickles offers retailers an extra fresh snacking item in the form of single-serve, individually packaged whole pickles and pickle bites. Crunchmaster Crackers, reportedly the No. 1 cracker sold at Costco, is preparing for its convenience store industry debut. And Paqui Tortilla Chips showcased the intense, spicy flavors of its gluten-, nut- and MSG-free chips in a convenience store-sized bag.
Gehl Foods plans to improve the reputation of convenience store cheese with its Cheese Sauce 2.0 dispenser. The small-footprint unit is easy to stock and clean, and can be filled with five different quality varieties of cheese at launch. A similar chocolate dispenser is on the way, the company told expo attendees.
More than 1,200 retailers and vendors attended the two-day event, which grew from its 50th anniversary year in 2015. Attendees represented both large and small convenience store chains. However, according to Eby-Brown officials, single-store owners and smaller chains are likely to get the most out of the convenience distributor's recent technology advances.
Eby-Brown itself is focused on growth as it integrates with the recently acquired Liberty USA, a fellow distributor based in West Mifflin, Pa. Foodservice is also a major priority, according to Joe Roenna, Eby-Brown's executive vice president of merchandising and procurement. The distributor's proprietary foodservice program, which includes the Aroma Bay Café, Savory Corner Cafe, Wakefield Sandwiches and Crisp Acres initiatives, was on display at the show.
"Our parents believed in delivering solutions to their customers more than 50 years ago when they had the foresight to begin this Eby-Expo trade show," remarked Tom Wake, co-president of Eby-Brown. "We are a multi-generational family business that has grown through a focus on delivering excellent service, innovation and solutions to our customers. Eby-Expo conveys these concepts that result in our vendors and customers coming together, all with a focus of helping our customers grow their businesses."