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Supplier Spotlights: 22nd Century Group, Alto-Shaam & Big League Chew

Ferrara Candy Co., Hunt Bros. Pizza and Ruiz Food Products are among others who announced new initiatives and partnerships.

NATIONAL REPORT — While it's important for convenience store retailers to market themselves, new products, services, promotions and other initiatives by c-store suppliers are a major part of capturing consumer interest. Convenience Store News will regularly highlight such efforts in this roundup.

[Read more: Supplier Spotlights: Eco-Products, Electric Era Technologies & Fresh Blends]

Here are the latest supplier spotlights:

22nd Century Group logo

22nd Century Group Inc.

22nd Century Group Inc. reached an agreement to sell substantially all of its GVB Biopharma (GVB) hemp/cannabis operations to Specialty Acquisition Corp. (SAC), a Nevada-based company and entity affiliated with current GVB employees. 

Terms of the transaction include a $1 million cash payment to 22nd Century at the closing of the sale and a 12% secured promissory note for $1.25 million issued by SAC, and payable through six equal monthly installments of principal and accrued interest commencing the fourth calendar month after closing. The parties would equally share liabilities related to any GVB entities not part of the transaction, subject to certain conditions. 

The agreement also entitled 22nd Century to retain any insurance proceeds received in connection with the fire at its Grass Valley manufacturing facility, a portion of which will be used to offset SAC's portion of the shared liabilities. At present, damages being sought are approximately $9 million, subject to upward revision the longer the disputed claim with the insurer remains unresolved.

The sale was expected to close in early December 2023, subject to customary closing conditions including approval by 22nd Century's board of directors, receipt of a fairness opinion, SAC obtaining $3 million in financing and receipt of third-party consents, including the consent of the 22nd Century's senior lender.

22nd Century plans to use the proceeds from the sale to further deleverage its balance sheet.

Groundbreaking at Alto-Shaam New headquarters


Alto-Shaam held a groundbreaking ceremony to kick off construction of its expansion in Menomonee Falls, Wis. 

The company is adding an innovation center to its global headquarters and manufacturing facility. The 100,000-square-foot center will expand the company's manufacturing capacity and will include a research and development lab, as well as engineering, product management, shipping and finished goods spaces to help meet evolving customer needs. The new center will be connected to the existing building by several new entranceways. Completion is planned for 2025.

"My father founded [Alto-Shaam] from nothing in 1955. We had no facility, just a simple idea turned into an innovation, an incredible amount of hard work and [an] extraordinary amount of commitment," said Alto-Shaam CEO Steve Maahs. "Those modest beginnings have stayed with us throughout the evolution of our business and facility here in Menomonee Falls, which we are proud to expand into next year with our innovation center."

As part of the construction project, the front facade of the headquarters will also get a refreshed paint and refinishing job while the interior facilities will be renovated in order to improve overall workplace ergonomics. 

Big League Chew bag

Big League Chew

Ford Gum and Machine Co.'s Big League Chew shredded bubble gum is updating the brand's packaging graphics for the first time in its history. 

Known for its one-of-a-kind pouches and rooted in baseball culture for more than four decades, Big League Chew's refreshed packaging graphics will introduce a new, expanded roster of baseball and softball players while paying homage to the retro look and feel that consumers have come to know. With the exception of Outta' Here Original, each of the gum's flavors will also feature up to three unique player illustrations.

The refreshed graphics have begun a slow unveiling via the brand's social media sites, while the updated pouches will begin hitting the shelves during the first quarter of 2024. 

Nerds Very Berry Gummy Clusters bag

Ferrara Candy Co.

Ferrara Candy Co.'s 40-year-old Nerds brand is going to the big game in February for the first time ever.

[Read more: Ferrara Expands Sugar Confections Portfolio With Jelly Belly Candy Co. Acquisition]

The company will promote its new NERDS Gummy Clusters with a 30-second spot that will air during Super Bowl LVIII, an extension of Ferrara's campaign for the brand, which has tripled its marketing investment over the last year.

The spot is expected to air during the second quarter and will feature what the company states is a fresh look at the Nerds characters. The spot will be additionally supported by a 360-marketing campaign that will extend beyond the big game across multiple channels, including in-store displays and a giveaway on packs of NERDS Gummy Clusters that will give fans a chance to win a trip to the next Super Bowl in 2025.

G Fuel

Kingswood Capital Management and First Bev made an eight-figure cash investment in energy drink company G Fuel. 

Precise terms of the deal were not immediately released, but the funds will provide significant growth equity for the company. 

"As we evaluated the opportunity, we were blown away by G Fuel's incredible social following with over 5 million followers across their social channels," said Andrew Kovach, managing director at Kingswood. "This highlights the incredible passion and loyalty for the brand."

Alongside the investment announcement, Bryan Crowley was named G Fuel's new CEO.

Crowley comes to the company with leadership experience in the beverage industry, most recently as CEO of Casa Azul Spirits. Prior to that, Crowley served in various executive positions at ZenWTR, Soylent, KeVita, VEEV Spirits, Pabst Brewing Co. and Mars Inc. Crowley also co-founded Flying Embers Hard Kombucha, serving on its board. 

Hunt Brothers Pizza

Hunt Brothers Pizza entered in a multiyear partnership with Team Penske that will feature the c-store pizza company's colors and branding on the No. 22 Team Penske Ford Mustang driven by two-time NASCAR Cup Series (NCS) champion Joey Logano for select races beginning in 2024. 

Hunt Brothers Pizza will also offer branded Joey Logano signage to its store partners free of charge, while also serving as an associate sponsor on defending NCS champion Ryan Blaney's No. 12 Ford Mustang for the 2024 season. 

The partnership will mark the 17th season that Hunt Brothers Pizza has served as a dedicated team partner in the NASCAR Cup Series. The company stated the NASCAR partnerships offer a unique marketing opportunity for Hunt Brothers and its store partners, with races almost year-round and loyal fans nationwide tuning in to see their favorite drivers compete in one unified event week after week. 

LG EV charger

LG Electronics

LG Electronics plans to enter the U.S. electric vehicle (EV) charger market in 2024 with the introduction of its first line of AC and DC EV charging stations. 

According to LG Business Solutions USA's Senior Vice President Nicolas Min, the line will include Level 2 and Level 3 EV chargers.

LG anticipates that the United States will need hundreds of thousands of additional Level 2 and Level 3 chargers to support the growing number of EVs on the road, and its line is intended to help individual sites such as hotels, restaurants, transit hubs and municipal buildings take part in the market without relying on third-party owner operators. 

LG's initial product line for the United States will include wall-mountable Level 2 AC chargers with a load management solution and variable current settings enabling 11kW of output power through a standard SAE J1772 connector. The company's first Level 3 DC charger will be a stand-type model with touch-screen display and a connected power bank that provides fast charging up to 175kW through CCS1 and NACS connectors 1.

Both types of chargers will also feature LG software to enable integration with other LG infrastructure elements including digital display networks. Some models may offer additional revenue opportunities through included digital displays that can present third-party advertisements.

Luncheon for retail partners at NRS headquarters

National Retail Solutions

National Retail Solutions (NRS) hosted a special luncheon to honor its clients, including store owners using NRS point-of-sale systems, distributors and accountants. 

[Read more: National Retail Solutions Teams With Uber to Support Independent Retailers]

The event was created to underscore the company's appreciation for its partners, as well as help introduce them to NRS's comprehensive suite of services, including NRS Purple, payroll services, NRS Pay credit card processing, NRS Funding and ecommerce solutions.

"Our mission at NRS has always been to empower small and independent retailers. This event was a fantastic opportunity to connect with our clients, showing them how our tailored solutions can propel their businesses forward in a dynamic marketplace," said Elie Y. Katz, NRS president and CEO.

Premier Manufacturing Inc.

The consumer products division of US Tobacco Cooperative Inc. (USTC), Premier Manufacturing Inc., acquired VP Distributors LLC, which will broaden its parent company's distribution network, and offer an enhanced range of products and services to a wider customer base.

"We are thrilled to announce the acquisition of VP Distributors, a move that underscores our commitment to providing unparalleled convenience, blend of quality products and exceptional service to our customers. This strategic expansion aligns with our vision to enhance accessibility and elevate the overall c-store supply experience" said Russ Mancuso, USTC's senior vice president of consumer products.

USTC anticipates that the acquisition will both boost its market share and potentially create new opportunities for VP Distributor's customers and employees. 

Ruiz Food Products Inc.

In November, Ruiz Food Products Inc. opened two on-site health centers for insured team members and their covered family members: one at the company's Florence, S.C., plant and one at the Denison, Texas, plant, the latter of which replaced an off-site facility.

The Ruiz Foods Health Center operated by CareATC provides employees with access to primary care, including lab tests, chronic health services and generic prescription medications at no additional cost. Both health centers are staffed by a physician, nurse practitioner and two medical assistants, while the Texas site also includes a physician's assistant. Both centers have extended hours two days a week to accommodate team members working second and third shifts.

[Read more: TWIC Talk With Ruiz Food Products' Kimberli Carroll]

"Having on-site healthcare with no additional cost or co-pay is important to the entire Ruiz Foods family," said Kim Ruiz Beck, Ruiz Foods chairman of the board and daughter of cofounder Fred Ruiz. "The convenience of an on-site health center is proven to improve team member health while lowering the cost of care for team members and the company." 

The company plans to open a third on-site clinic at its Dinuba, Calif., location in early 2024.

SurgePays Inc.

SurgePays Inc. was ranked at No. 345 on the Deloitte Technology Fast 500, a list of the 500 fastest-growing technology, media, telecommunications, life sciences, fintech and energy technology companies in North America.

In order to be eligible for Technology Fast 500 recognition, companies must have base-year operating revenues of at least $50,000 and current-year operating revenues of at least $5 million. Additionally, companies must have been in business for a minimum of four years and be headquartered within North America. Overall, the 2023 Technology Fast 500 companies achieved revenue growth ranging from 201% to 222, 189% over the three-year time frame.

Between 2019 and 2022, SurgePays saw revenue growth of 372%, according to the company.

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