Supplier Spotlights: 22nd Century Group Inc., ADD Systems & Advantage Solutions

Atomic Brands, Diebold Nixdorf, Frito-Lay North America and Hershey Co., among others, also announce initiatives and partnerships.
Amanda Koprowski
Associate Editor
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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: Cibo Vita, Five Star Food Service & KeHE Foods]

Here are the latest supplier spotlights:

22nd Century Group logo

22nd Century Group Inc.

Biotechnology company 22nd Century Group Inc. entered into a new manufacturing agreement to produce a private label premium cigarette brand, Pinnacle, for sale at an American gas station and convenience store chain which comprises almost 1,700 stores in 27 states.

"We are excited to launch a new store-brand product with one of the largest convenience store chains in the country," stated John Miller, president of tobacco products at 22nd Century Group. "We believe that working with premier retailers on conventional products like Pinnacle offers value to current adult smokers as we aggressively expand our flagship product, FDA-authorized VLN reduced nicotine cigarettes."

22nd Century Group provided the trademarked brand name and predicate tobacco blend for the new Pinnacle product, which is produced at its manufacturing operations in North Carolina. Pinnacle is approved in 22 states to date where the retail partner has stores and is available thus far in approximately half of the eligible stores. It currently has applications pending in the remaining states.

Pinnacle leverages one of 22nd Century's national-scale distribution partnerships to coordinate state tax stamp compliance and distribution to the retail stores. Early sales have been robust, according to the company, indicating consumer interest in switching brands. 

The company also signed a new agreement with Old Pal LLC, a consumer hemp/cannabis company that now operates in eight states and is noted for its nostalgic branding.

The exclusive license with 22nd Century will cover Old Pal branded non-Delta-9 THC, hemp derived cannabinoid consumer products and accessories. The Old Pal deal will leverage 22nd Century's formulation, ingredient and manufacturing infrastructure, along with the company's turn-key sales and distribution platform for alternative consumer products in a complete go-to-market solution.

ADD BTC Conference photo montage

ADD Systems

Advanced Digital Data Inc. (ADD Systems) hosted its largest ever user conference this May. The 2023 Business Tech Conference (BTC) coincided with ADD Systems' 50th anniversary and included more than 600 attendees and 25 exhibitors. 

The conference was held at Disney's Yacht and Beach Club Resorts and was filled with new software enhancement announcements, educational sessions, user best practices sharing and opportunities to learn about partner products and services, along with networking and family-friendly events.

ADD Systems President Bruce C. Bott kicked off the conference by talking about the importance of ADD Systems' 50th anniversary milestone and the enduring principles founder Bruce A. Bott put in place. The conference then dove into the software, focusing on the latest enhancements and future direction of ADD Systems. More than 35 educational sessions, led by ADD experts over three days, helped users focus on efficiency-gaining features. 

ADD Systems holds its user conference every three years, with plans already underway for the 2026 BTC.

Marlin Connections logo

Advantage Solutions

Sales and marketing solutions provider Advantage Solutions has formed Marlin Connections, a North American foodservice communications and culinary agency. 

The new agency boasts more than 40 years of foodservice expertise and is the result of Advantage Solutions' deliberate focus and investment on foodservice capabilities, according to the company.

Marlin Connections also brings together some of the more notable names in the industry, including Marlin Co., CSSI, The Alchemedia Project and Bon Aperture Studios. These individual teams have been integrated under a streamlined structure and singular brand name to offer clients comprehensive capabilities and offerings.

With connections to the top 100 restaurant chains, Marlin Connections' goal is to be a one-stop partner for all foodservice communications, culinary and content needs from dinner deliveries to groceries to grab-and-go convenience store meals.

"Our investment in foodservice capabilities is paying dividends right as the industry is experiencing a renewal. We are ready to help clients navigate the rapidly changing foodservice landscape and build brands that are as relevant away from home as they are in the grocery aisles," said Alli Welker, general manager at Marlin Connections.

Atomic Brands

Atomic Brands' Monaco Cocktails line entered into a multiyear national marketing partnership with the UFC, the premier mixed martial arts (MMA) organization.

Monaco's Hard Lemonade line will become the Official Hard Lemonade of UFC and the Official Canned Vodka Cocktail of UFC, allowing the brand to integrate with key UFC assets, including live events and broadcast features in select U.S.-based Pay-Per-Views and prominent branding inside the league's Octagon during the upcoming 31st season of The Ultimate Fighter.   

"We're thrilled to invite the incredible fans behind UFC into the world of Monaco Cocktails and amp up the audience's energy through our best-selling canned cocktails," said Don Deubler, CEO of Atomic Brands. "As an official partner of UFC, we're honored to be a part of an organization that has revolutionized the fan experience."

Monaco and UFC will also collaborate on original content that will be distributed through UFC's popular digital and social channels, which could potentially reach more than 230 million users worldwide, according to the companies. Additionally, the agreement provides for an annual brand ambassador fund that will bring the partnership to life through appearances, content and creative campaigns with UFC athletes.

BuzzBallz logo

Buzzballz LLC

Woman-owned and family-operated distillery and brewery Buzzballz LLC/Southern Champion is partnering with actor and comedian Blake Anderson to produce a new summer ad campaign centered around the novelty shape of Buzzballz products and the question, "Why are they round?"

The campaign is broken into three video spots, each of which feature Anderson enjoying a BuzzBallz and getting asked the proverbial question. From there, Anderson explains his theories while an acted-out flashback plays, all of which are intended to be inaccurate but entertaining to watch.

Best known for writing and starring in Comedy Central's "Workaholics," Anderson has been a longtime advocate of the BuzzBallz brand and since last year, and has frequently mentioned them on his podcast, "This Is Important." These mentions led the BuzzBallz team to connect and foster a relationship with Anderson, ultimately leading to the collaboration.

The commercials were shot, written, directed and produced by Bacon & Eggs Media, a video production company out of Los Angeles. 

"We wanted to get 'ballzy' this year with our advertising, so we enlisted Bacon & Eggs and celebrity Blake Anderson to create some humorous commercials for us," said BuzzBallz Director of Marketing Tia Wines. "It's a fun brand and we don't take ourselves too seriously, but we want our cocktails to be top-of-mind this summer and these ads are definitely memorable." 

The company added that with BuzzBallz about to enter the busy summer season and Workaholics making a comeback on TikTok, the partnership was seen as timely for both brands, with the potential for growth in exposure and audienceship.

Diebold Nixdorf and WMF coffee checkout station

Diebold Nixdorf

Diebold Nixdorf partnered with WMF Professional Coffee Machines, a German supplier of coffee machines for commercial use, to make coffee purchases in retail stores easier and quicker for consumers by connecting WMF's coffee machines to Diebold Nixdorf's point-of-sale (POS) and self-service systems.

According to the company, buying coffee can be time consuming, especially when it needs to be ordered at the sales counter and a single staff member is responsible for taking orders, preparing coffee and completing checkout. Diebold Nixdorf and WMF therefore set out to improve the process by adding a self-service option for customers. 

Retailers can use the open APIs of Diebold Nixdorf's cloud-native Vynamic Retail Platform to integrate their coffee machine into their store IT infrastructure and provide vouchers at the POS after a customer pays for the coffee. The customer then scans the voucher at the machine to get the coffee. Another option is to connect the coffee maker to a Diebold Nixdorf self-service system, allowing customers to handle the process independently, without spending any time in line.

"Coffee is very profitable for retailers and drives customer traffic," said Benedikt Schmidt, director or partner ecosystem retail software at Diebold Nixdorf. "A connected coffee machine … gives retailers more control of the coffee purchasing process and the opportunity to reconnect with the customers when inviting them to join a loyalty program."

Three bags of Lay's sandwich-inspired potato chips

Frito-Lay North America

In conjunction with its #ChipIN or #ChipOUT social media campaign, Lay's Potato Chips introduced three sandwich-inspired flavors for the summer season. 

[Read more: Frito-Lay & Quaker Highlight Summer Snacking Trends]

According to Lay's Summer Sandwich Flavor Evaluation Report, nearly three-fourths of surveyed consumers claim to enjoy potato chips with a sandwich. But the question remains of whether to enjoy chips in the sandwich or out of it.

For those who can't pick a side, Lay's now provides new options: 

  • BLT Sandwich, which combines the flavors of smoky bacon and tomato in a spin on one of America's most popular sandwiches;
  • Wavy Cuban Sandwich, which uses the traditional flavors of pork and cheddar cheese as a take on the classic sandwich; or
  • Baked Lay's Buffalo Chicken Sandwich, a limited time offering which contains flavors of cheese and zesty buffalo sauce.

The three new flavors are available at retailers nationwide now. After trying out the new offerings, potato chip and sandwich fans alike can head to TikTok to stake their claim on team #ChipIN or #ChipOUT. 

Jolly Rancher gummies bag

The Hershey Co.

This spring, Hershey's Jolly Rancher Gummies received a vibrant new look via limited-edition packaging that feature designs from boundary-breaking street artists, including Danielle Mastrion from New York, Joe Starkweather from Miami and Evan Farrell (KidWiseman) from Los Angeles. 

The brand also unveiled murals in each of the artists' cities to bring the packaging to life and deliver a touch of vibrancy to local neighborhoods, according to the candy maker. An additional mural by Kid Wiseman was also created for Bentonville, Ark. 

Each large-scale artwork combines the artists' unique creative approach, the culture of their community, and Jolly Rancher Gummies' vivid colors and classic characters. 

The project came about thanks to Jolly Rancher's partnership with Beautify Earth, a creative agency dedicated to connecting brands and local artists to transform public outdoor spaces through murals, packaging and digital storytelling. 

The limited-edition Jolly Rancher Gummies feature a mix of flavors including green apple, blue raspberry, cherry, grape and watermelon, and are available in either 7-ounce or 13-ounce pouches.

Pepsi Press Play on Summer banner

PepsiCo Inc.

PepsiCo is teaming up with music superstar Bad Bunny to launch the "Press Play On Summer" campaign, which offers fans the opportunity to receive three months of Apple Music for free. The musical artist will be appearing in ads promoting the contest.

Interested music lovers can purchase select, limited-edition PepsiCo beverages in order to find a unique QR code on 20-ounce bottles of Pepsi, Pepsi Zero Sugar, Pepsi Mango, Pepsi Wild Cherry, Mountain Dew, Mountain Dew Major Melon, Mountain Dew Spark, Mountain Dew Voltage, Starry and Starry Zero Sugar. Codes may unlock up to three months of free Apple Music or provide consumers with the chance to win one of more than 100,000 instant prizes, including weekly fly away trips.

In 2022, Apple Music named Bad Bunny its Artist of the Year in acknowledgment of the musician's artistic excellence and influence on global culture. 

[Read more: PepsiCo Makes Progress on DE&I Goals]

"Summer is the season of the year that we all get excited about, the one that brings the heat, when we seek the beach, friends, good music and just have a good time," said Bad Bunny. "I'm happy to partner with Pepsi and Apple Music to bring fans more of what we love and unites us: music."

The full rules and guidelines for the offer may be found here.

Snack House Foods logo

Snack House Foods

Michigan-based brand Snack House Foods launched Crispy BBQ and Loaded Nacho Keto Puffs in Yesway and Allsup's convenience stores through partner GPO+. The convenience stores will feature the BBQ and Loaded Nacho flavors in an evolving "better for you" section.

The high-protein, low-carb and gluten-free Keto Puffs are aimed at health-conscious individuals looking for a satisfying snack and feature only two to three grams of net carbs per serving along with 15 grams of protein, according to the maker.

Snack House Foods' Keto Puffs are currently available in five total flavors: BBQ, Loaded Nacho, Flaming Red Hot, Jalapeno Cheddar and Cheeseburger. The company plans to significantly expand distribution to other stores in the coming months.

WorkJam logo


RetailTech Breakthrough selected digital frontline workplace WorkJam as winner of the "Workforce Scheduling Solution Of The Year" award in the former's inaugural RetailTech Breakthrough Awards program.

WorkJam's fully modular super app and solutions are intended to address economic challenges in customer-facing industries, such as labor shortages, productivity, turnover and training, as well as the inequalities that exist between salaried and hourly workers. Its scheduling programs are built to solve both manager and employee challenges by delivering a complete set of self-service tools to the frontline workforce that enables employees to manage their own schedules, shifts and time off requests. The solution also fully integrates with current Workforce Management Systems to ensure scalability and compliance. 

"WorkJam's purpose is to empower frontline employees with digital tools that make their lives better, while also solving daunting productivity and retention challenges for industries,'' said Steven Kramer, WorkJam CEO. "We will continue to invest in solutions that support enterprises that understand the urgency of supporting, developing and advancing frontline workers as a connected community of knowledge employees."

WorkJam commissioned Forrester Consulting for an economic impact study which estimated a potential savings of $30 million, over three years, for a retailer with 60,000 employees connected and supported by the WorkJam solution and app.

The mission of the annual RetailTech Breakthrough Awards program is to conduct the industry's most comprehensive analysis and evaluation of the top companies, services and solutions in the retail technology industry today. This year's program attracted more than 1,200 nominations from more than 12 different countries throughout the world.