Raising the Bar on Coffee


Today?s savvy convenience store operators are working to earn consumer confidence that their beverage offerings are not only plentiful, but also of a high quality level that compares favorably to or exceeds that of quick-service restaurant competitors.

Coffee is a primary area of innovation and customer engagement, and here are just a few of the ways c-store retailers are raising the bar on their coffee offerings.

C-store chains have been going above and beyond the standard filtered coffee by introducing coffees spotlighting popular seasonal flavors, such as peppermint in the winter and pumpkin in the fall. These types of flavors have become signature returning favorites at chain restaurants, such as Starbucks? Pumpkin Spice Latte. Convenience store operators are increasingly capitalizing on this opportunity to create their own seasonal hype for specialty flavored coffees.

This fall, many c-store chains promoted their own pumpkin-spiced coffee drinks, including 7-Eleven, Wawa, Pilot Flying J and Giant Eagle?s GetGo. Other trending seasonal flavors for coffee drinks this fall included caramel apple, cinnamon and salted caramel.

According to Technomic?s 2014 Beverage Consumer Trend Report, approximately 35 percent of consumers say their beverage preferences change depending on the season, which should influence c-store operators? decision to expand their coffee varieties to include popular seasonal flavors.

The same report also indicated that 21 percent of consumers often customize their at-home beverages with flavored syrups and creamers, signaling interest in creating a personalized cup of coffee. This presents c-stores with another strategy to upgrade the appeal of their coffee offerings.

A number of c-store chains are introducing coffee bars to their stores, allowing guests to give their coffee a personal touch with the addition of flavored syrups or creamers and toppings. Similarly, operators are installing high-tech coffee machines that allow guests to create individual cups of coffee with fresh-ground beans and customized ingredients.

Family Express recently introduced European Café espresso machines, a system that grinds fresh beans, extracts coffee, infuses milk with flavored syrups and makes hot foam ? all at the command of customers via a touchscreen.

Coffee presents hot opportunities for c-store retailers, but it is important to remain attentive to consumer demands and current beverage trends in the restaurant industry for strategic inspiration. Consumer perceptions around purchases of c-store coffee can be improved by experimenting with seasonal varieties and providing the ability to customize.

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