Retailers Explore Doing Good With Good Food at 2018 CSNews Foodservice Summit

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Retailers Explore Doing Good With Good Food at 2018 CSNews Foodservice Summit

Southern Food & Beverage Museum Tour
Retailers were treated to a tour and Cajun lunch at the Southern Food & Beverage Museum.

NEW ORLEANS — The 2018 Convenience Store News Foodservice Summit, held here last week, focused on the role of food in a community. The usual culinary tour de force of the latest food and beverage trends — a mainstay of this annual conference, held in partnership with Tyson Convenience —  was supplemented by the inspiring stories of local retailers and how they are serving the still-underserved communities, like the Lower Ninth Ward, devastated by Hurricane Katrina 13 years ago.

“Our content, our discussions and our experiences here are all centered on the role of food in a community,” CSNews Editorial Director Don Longo told the 11 representatives from leading food-forward convenience store chains who attended this year’s Summit.

The two-day agenda included visits to the Southern Food & Beverage Museum, The Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine, and Liberty’s Kitchen. The latter two organizations are utilizing food to do good in the community and as a platform to encourage healthier eating.

“The reason we chose this theme is because our stores are members of communities. Each of you knows how to run your businesses — the metrics, the standards, the processes; all those things we see inside our stores. But our goal this year is to start a conversation for our industry about looking outside, through our store windows, at the community around us,” Longo said. “Who are we, and what role can we play in the communities our stores serve?”

Retailers at the Summit were introduced to Propeller, a nonprofit organization that supports entrepreneurs as they tackle social, economic and environmental disparities in New Orleans. They visited two convenience stores that are part of Propeller’s Healthy Corner Store Collaborative, which strives to provide healthier food options to local neighborhoods.

At one store, Burnell Cotlon’s Lower Ninth Ward Market, the convenience store retailers were visibly moved by the New Orleans native’s tenacity and optimism in the face of numerous post-Katrina obstacles. Cotlon explained that the Lower Ninth Ward has had a much slower recovery than most New Orleans neighborhoods. Population has decreased from approximately 14,000 before the hurricane to only about 3,000 today — with the highest percentage of African-Americans in the city living here.

The retailers witnessed abandoned houses and torn-up roads, and were told the nearest full-service grocery store is three bus rides away from Cotlon’s small facility, which he rebuilt himself from a wrecked structure. (See Cotlon’s appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres show.)

The Summit wrapped up with an inspiring and insightful conversation with former Whole Foods Market co-CEO Walter Robb, who in his post-Whole Foods career strives to provide accessible, healthy products to consumers across the country.

Robb spoke about a wide variety of topics, including the growing issue of food waste, the importance of having a digital strategy, the food trends that will have the greatest impact on retailers, and what the Amazon-Whole Foods merger will mean for the food retailing industry.

Roundtable discussions at the event also touched on a sweeping range of topics, including what’s new in technology, how c-stores are addressing growing customer expectations around store experience, and how to balance a great food offer with guests’ expectations of speedy service.

Participants in the 2018 CSNews Foodservice Summit included top foodservice executives from 7-Eleven Inc., BP/ampm, Circle K Stores Inc., Country Fair Inc., Kum & Go LC, Kwik Trip Inc., Maverik Inc., RaceTrac Petroleum Inc., Rutter’s, Sheetz Inc. and Wawa Inc. 

Burnell Cotlon, owner of the Lower Ninth Ward Market, rebuilt his store himself from a wrecked structure after Hurricane Katrina.