Supplier Spotlights: Altria Group, Heineken USA & PriceAdvantage

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Supplier Spotlights: Altria Group, Heineken USA & PriceAdvantage


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.

Here are the latest supplier spotlights:


A&W Restaurants is expanding from California to New York and from Louisiana to Minnesota through agreements signed with 10 new franchisees. The most recent multi-unit deal was signed in June and will bring three locations to Lafayette, La.

The fast food chain has opened 12 restaurants in the last 18 months and currently has 16 in development, four of which are being built by current franchisees. The new locations will be in major cities, such as Chicago and St. Louis, as well as mid-size and smaller communities, the company said. Seven will be located in convenience stores or travel centers.

"A&W truly is an all-American business opportunity that performs very well in all areas of the country," said CEO Kevin Bazner. "The pandemic is sadly forcing many stores, as well as independent and other chain restaurants, to close permanently. We expect more new franchisees will capitalize on these real estate opportunities and convert facilities that once housed other restaurant brands or businesses to A&Ws."

To help new owners succeed, A&W is lowering royalties in the first year of all new franchise agreements from the standard 5 percent to 3 percent. Second-year royalties are 4 percent. Initial fees on multi-unit agreements also are being discounted, the company announced.


Altria Group Inc.'s greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets were approved for the first time by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). The Scope 1 and 2 target covering greenhouse gas emissions from Altria's operations is consistent with reductions required to keep warming to 1.5°C, a goal that the latest climate science says is needed to prevent the most damaging effects of climate change, according to the announcement. The Scope 3 target meets the criteria for ambitious value chain goals and current best practice.

"We believe it's important to continually work to address important social and environmental challenges," said Jennifer Hunter, senior vice president, corporate citizenship. "This is why we've set a higher bar and reset our long-term goals, including achieving 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030, 100 percent water neutrality annually and aligning our business with the most ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets designated by the SBTi."

Altria was also named to CDP's Water A-List for the third year in a row, among only 2 percent of disclosing global companies in 2019, and is recognized on CDP's 2019 Climate Change survey as a global leader for engagement with suppliers on climate change.

SBTi is a collaboration between CDP, the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute and the World Wide Fund for Nature. The SBTi defines and promotes best practice in science-based target setting and independently assesses companies' targets.


Anchor Packaging LLC acquired Janesville, Wis.-based Panoramic Inc., a manufacturer of thermoformed products used in fresh food applications, including bakery, produce and confectionery. Over the past 14 years, Panoramic has grown at a double-digit annual rate alongside a diverse customer base, consisting of a wide range of regional and national food processors and retailers.

"We are pleased to announce the acquisition of Panoramic Inc., and we welcome all the Panoramic colleagues and customers to the Anchor Packaging family of companies," said Jeff Wolff, president and CEO of Anchor Packaging. "This acquisition is strategically important to us for two reasons: It will significantly broaden our offering to attract bakery, produce, deli, and confectionery customers. Also, it expands our capabilities and speed to market across any size customer or project to support the growing needs of our customers."

Panoramic is known for its ability to service mid-sized customers with creativity and speed to market, according to the announcement. These competencies are highly complementary to the emphasis on innovation, custom design and velocity at Anchor Packaging.

"I truly believe, from the bottom of my heart, this is the right thing to do for Panoramic Inc, and more importantly for all of our employees and our loyal customers," said Rick Holznecht, former president of Panoramic. "We share a joint heritage in that both of our companies were founded and operated as Midwestern-based, family-owned businesses for many years. Anchor Packaging holds true to that same set of core values that we live by every day at Panoramic. This is an exciting new chapter for Panoramic Inc. and an opportunity to grow with a family of companies that shares our customer-centric innovative vision."


Anheuser-Busch InBev's Mexican beer brand Estrella Jalisco launched a new creative campaign that includes a $1 million pledge to bring colorful art to 100 communities in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas by 2025. To achieve this, the brand is introducing its first-ever Artist In Residence program, a collective of nine bright and bold artists from across the country for the first initiative of Estrella Jalisco's commitment.

This summer, communities in Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix and El Paso will begin to see their neighborhoods painted with vibrant, colorful, larger-than-life murals, taking over blank walls in public spaces, the company said. Each piece of art will visually reflect Estrella Jalisco's vibrant, colorful heritage and have a special connection to its neighborhood by featuring a "Local Star," a person who is making a positive impact in their own unique way.

"First brewed in Guadalajara, Jalisco, the cultural capital of Mexico renowned for its vibrant art scene, Estrella Jalisco has a long-standing tradition of bringing people together around colorful art and celebrating life" said Jayden Kahl, senior director of marketing, Estrella Jalisco. "Through this program and the artists who join us, we'll collectively extend those values to communities across the country and make a tangible, visible impact on a local level."

Los Angeles artist and activist, Ruben Rojas will kick off the initiative by unveiling the program's first piece of art for the campaign video. As the face of the campaign launch, Rojas represents Estrella Jalisco's mission to add color and vibrancy to local communities through public art.

"Bringing people together through creativity has always been a part of my purpose as an artist. I'm proud to partner with Estrella Jalisco to launch their commitment and support of art in communities across the country," Rojas said. "Our shared hope is that by using murals to share stories of our neighborhood heroes we can foster joy and connection in people's lives."

Additionally, Anheuser-Busch's Michelob ULTRA beer brand formed a multi-year partnership with the National Basketball Association (NBA) that makes it the official beer partner of the NBA. It will bring fans closer to the game during the NBA Restart in Orlando with "Michelob ULTRA Courtside," a digital experience that allows fans to appear virtually inside the arena and share in the excitement of the game.

Michelob ULTRA will release a new television spot celebrating the joy of the return of basketball, featuring five-time NBA All-Star Jimmy Butler of the Miami Heat reminding fans that it's only worth it if you enjoy the experience.

"Combining athleticism with enjoyment is what defines Michelob ULTRA, and that's why we are incredibly honored to partner with the NBA and celebrate this historic return of basketball," said Ricardo Marques, vice president of Michelob ULTRA. "Michelob ULTRA Courtside is a truly groundbreaking virtual fan experience that will not only bring the energy of the fans to the game, but also bring the athletes closer to the fans."


Branch, the challenger bank that works with employers, partnered with Mastercard to offer cardholders instant access to their funds with Branch's Mastercard debit card by directly adding it to mobile wallets, including Apple Pay and Google Pay, from the Branch mobile app.

This addition allows new consumers to sign up for Branch's fee-free checking account and add the new Branch Card directly into their mobile wallets, without having to wait for the physical card to arrive.

"Consumers deserve fast and flexible mobile banking services that adapt to their needs," said Branch CEO Atif Siddiqi. "As contactless payments become a critical part of everyday transactions, these new capabilities allow users to seamlessly transition between their physical and digital wallets."

Users who have already received a Branch Card can update their app settings to add their debit cards onto their mobile wallets.

"Contactless payments offer safety, security, and efficiency to consumers at the point of sale," said Sherri Haymond, executive vice president, Digital Partnerships at Mastercard. "The capability of offering an instant Branch Mastercard debit card is part of our commitment to making the digital economy work for everyone, everywhere."


Big League Chew bubble gum brand is teaming up with the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum to give fans the chance to win an all-expense paid trip to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., as well as $50,000 to support their hometown youth baseball or softball program. The "Hall of Flavors" online game began June 15 and runs through Aug. 10.

Participants can use a special seven-digit code found on the back of Big League Chew pouches to enter the game and sweepstakes. They will have the chance to win daily prizes, including Big League Chew bubble gum, Big League Chew t-shirt or a 2020 Baseball Hall of Fame yearbook.

In addition to the all-expense paid trip, the grand prize winner will also receive a one-year Hall of Fame Benefactor Membership, VIP behind-the-scenes tour, a guided museum tour and a $250 gift certificate to the Baseball Hall of Fame Store, as well as one year's supply of Big League Chew bubble gum and merchandise.

"The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is proud to partner with Big League Chew to celebrate the National Pastime through the 'Hall of Flavors' game and sweepstakes," said Sean Gahagan, the museum's vice president of retail merchandising and licensing. "A trip to Cooperstown is the quintessential baseball experience, just like enjoying Big League Chew on a sunny day at the ballpark."


Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A. Inc. introduced its new "Can Do Done Daily" campaign, which seeks to highlights its dedicated workforce. The campaign features stories from Del Monte Fresh Produce employees in all sectors, from warehouse operations to merchandising and more, and showcases the exemplary work Del Monte Fresh Produce's staff has remained committed to executing throughout the COVID-19 outbreak despite the challenges they have faced.

Del Monte Fresh Produce employees from across the continent were asked by the company to share stories highlighting their hard work during the new normal.

"We are so proud to share the stories collected for the Can Do Done Daily campaign with our consumers," said Chief Marketing Officer Elana Gold. "So many members of the Del Monte Fresh Produce family have been working around the clock to keep our operation going; our employees have gone above and beyond and given their all, despite how challenging things have been. Showcasing their passion, commitment and the hard work they've been doing in this way is the least we can do to thank them for their outstanding efforts, and it is our hope that our consumers will join in on thanking them, too."


Bitcoin point-of-sale provider Digital Mint entered into an agreement with ATM operator E Money Commerce to give more Midwestern consumers access to cryptocurrency via ATMs. The initial launch with E Money calls for 10 Bitcoin ATMs at convenience stores in central and southern Illinois, including Peoria, Springfield, and Bloomington, with plans for 27 more ATMs to open throughout Illinois and Missouri in the future.

"Much like DigitalMint, E Money has the extensive experience and entrepreneurial spirit to increase opportunities in the cryptocurrency segment," said Marc Grens, president and co-founder of DigitalMint. "We look forward to working together toward a more Bitcoin-ready nation, particularly through our mutual engagement of underbanked communities."

This expansion by DigitalMint comes about a year after announcing its major pilot program with Circle K in Nevada and Arizona. DigitalMint seeks to make cryptocurrency transactions more accessible to the general public through physical kiosks, ATMs and teller windows.


F'real launched the its first integrated marketing campaign, "Choose Your Alternate F'reality" (#FrealAF), to celebrate the recent branch relaunch. It consists of the first-of-its-kind virtual reality (VR) experience; a multi-platform live digital event; social challenge; influencer activations; and advertising creative, which will be leveraged in digital ad units across online, mobile and social platforms and featured on f'real blender screens nationwide in key retailers such as Maverik, Kum & Go and Cumberland Farms.

To meet Gen Z consumers on their mobile devices, f'real launched a 360-degree VR experience, bringing the #FrealAF campaign to life through smartphone camera lenses. Utilizing a custom QR code communicated on f'real social channels, digital ad units and blender screens nationwide, the web-based VR experience hosted on transports consumers to an immersive and interactive Alternate F'reality where distinct blend-it-yourself worlds come to life through a portal inspired by the six recently announced healthier-for-you smoothie and protein shake offerings as well as the classic fan-loved milkshakes.

"As the leading convenience store frozen novelty offering, f'real appeals to our consumers by constantly innovating and embracing new technologies on all fronts," said f'real Director of Marketing, Hayden Perry. "Recognizing that our millennial and Gen Z consumers are experiencing burnout culture on a whole new level, we wanted our first-ever consumer campaign to leverage technology that creates a one-of-a-kind customizable experience that is relatable, engaging and simulates the momentary respite that our blend-it-yourself experience provides."


The Doritos brand is inviting consumers to be part of the NFL Kickoff weekend during Week 1 games on Sunday, Sept. 13. It is asking fans to create its first TV commercial since the pandemic and plans to air it during the weekend event.

"Doritos has a long history of handing over its brand to consumers, building the brand together and elevating fans to get to that next level," said Marissa Solis, senior vice president of marketing. "Crash from Home embodies that same spirit, with the goal being to elevate and reward creative work in a way that's appropriate for the times."


GSTV partnered with journalist and AfterBuzz TV co-founder Maria Menounos. She will produce custom-created content based on her popular podcast and daytime talk series Better Together with Maria Menounos, sharing tips for improving physical health, emotional wellness, spirituality, finances, relationships and more. These short-form videos began airing on the GSTV network in June.

"Sharing inspiring content and positively impacting people's lives is my passion," Menounos said. "GSTV provides access to like-minded viewers in a unique way that other platforms can't, and I'm so excited to partner with them and create custom content for their video platform."

"Wellness has never been more in the forefront of our lives than right now, and we are thrilled to have Maria share Better Together with Maria Menounos with our viewers," added Sean McCaffrey, president and CEO, GSTV. "It is relevant content like this, especially from someone who has made wellness a priority in her own life, like Maria, that demonstrates our ability to fuel the minds and lives of our audience. Furthermore, we look forward to working with Maria to develop new content for our brand partners that will authentically resonate with our customers and consumers."


Dos Equis is making the most of an unusual summer by giving away six-foot coolers so beer drinks will know exactly how long six feet really is while enjoying a beer with friends and still following social distancing rules. The limited-edition Dos Equis Seis-Foot Cooler will be available while supplies last to make sure beer drinkers social distance exactly and get through whatever 2020 has to offer.

"Just because we have to social distance doesn't mean we have to skip out on summertime entirely," says Edith Llerena, senior brand manager, Dos Equis. "There's a responsible way to drink responsibly throughout the summer. With the new seis-foot cooler, beer drinkers can reclaim a piece of the vision they had for a normal summer, hanging out and drinking beer with friends. Just sit on opposite ends of the cooler to keep a safe distance apart. Just remember: Dos Equis, Seis Feet."


Juul Labs filed its third action with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) directed at all importers of unauthorized "Juul-compatible pods" that copy Juul's patented product designs without authorization. The action seeks a general exclusion order barring the importation of any infringing, unauthorized pod-based product designed to be used with the Juul System, including compatible flavored pods and refillable pods, effectively eliminating a sector of illicit products that seek to circumvent federal policy; can present additional health and safety risks to adult consumers; and undercut underage-prevention measures.

Juul is also asking the ITC to issue orders stopping the distribution, marketing and sale of all such products already in the country.

This patent enforcement action builds off previous actions Juul pursued at the ITC, targeting a broad range of importers of unauthorized Juul-compatible products, including Eonsmoke and Ziip Labs. Past actions resulted in stopping the ongoing importation of more than 40 brands of illicit and unauthorized Juul-compatible pods and products, the company said. With this new action, Juul seeks an even larger impact with a remedy that will not only bar the pod products named in the complaint, but will also bar all other infringing pod products that copy Juul's patented designs.


Consumers can now use cash to purchase bitcoin with LibertyX at 20,000 retail locations around the U.S., including retailers such as 7-Eleven, CVS and Rite Aid. A full list of participating retailers can be found using the LibertyX store locator available at or by downloading the LibertyX app.

"Bitcoin is one of the most exciting innovations over the last decade, but adoption has been limited by trust and accessibility. We wanted to expand our footprint so anyone can buy bitcoin at familiar locations they drive or walk by daily," said Chris Yim, LibertyX co-founder and CEO. "Now, everyone is only a few miles away from owning bitcoin and becoming part of its global community. Buying bitcoin is as easy as scanning a barcode while shopping for groceries."

To celebrate the nationwide launch of "Bitcoin on Every Block," LibertyX waived conversion fees from select retailers through July 31. The only fees were the $4.95 retailer service fee and customer selected miner fee.


PriceAdvantage announced today a new integration with GasBuddy Business Pages that provides customers of both companies more frequency and accuracy when communicating new prices to GasBuddy. It ensures that consumers view the most recent and accurate fuel prices on GasBuddy by communicating a retailer's current fuel prices as often as every fifteen minutes. It puts public-facing prices in the control of the retailer, rather than have them solely rely on crowd-sourced prices.

"This integration gives fuel retailers greater control over when and which commodities they update on the GasBuddy app," said John Keller, division director of PriceAdvantage. "It provides retailers 100 percent accuracy between what consumers see at the pump and what they view on the internet."

GasBuddy Business Pages is a business solution suite for fuel brands and convenience store owners to manage all location listings across the digital landscape, promote store sites and amenities and connect with customers.

"GasBuddy has the largest addressable audience of fuel and convenience store shoppers before they embark on their trip, so it's essential that your fuel prices are accurate," said Jordan Grossman, executive vice president of advertising sales at GasBuddy. "Our fuel and c-store partners will now have the power to confidently implement price changes to our platform, ensuring their prices are getting in front of drivers quickly."

The integration is an enhancement feature of PriceAdvantage Version 2020.1.


National foodservice distributor cooperative UniPro Foodservice Inc. added several new members to its roster.

NCD-National Convenience Distributors (NCD), the parent company of HLA Distributors, J. Polep Distribution Services and Allen Brothers Wholesale Distribution, is now a UniPro Foodservice member in total. Under one parent company Palm Beach Capital Fund III L.P., NCD is forming the fifth-largest wholesale distributor for the convenience industry. J. Polep was previously long-standing Member of UniPro while Allen Brothers and HLA are both new.

Other new members include:

  • BGA Wholesale Distributor dba Bermuda General Agency and BGA, headquartered in Bermuda. BGA has provided full-service distribution and services in a variety of businesses since 1922. It has a strong base of foodservice business and has recently made investments to expand it exponentially.
  • Nature's Produce, headquartered in Vernon, Calif. Since 2000, Nature's Produce has provided produce to all of southern California with a growing base of non-produce items in dairy, frozen, disposables and grocery items to further service its diverse clientele from its fleet of 60-plus multi-temperature vehicles.
  • Sunrise Produce Co., headquartered in Fullerton, Calif., which has operated since 1991.


Velvet Ice Cream, a fourth-generation family-owned ice cream maker, is expanding sales of its premium ice cream, sherbet and novelty products at new grocery and convenience stores across Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia. The expansion comes amid an industry-wide spike in retail sales and consumption of ice cream and dairy products, according to the company.

Velvet premium and specialty products can now be found in nearly 250 Little General, Par Mar, Mountaineer Mart and 711 locations in West Virginia, as well as Walmart stores in Bowling Green and Franklin, Ky., and Indianapolis and Fort Wayne, Ind.

"We're excited to launch new partnerships in these markets neighboring our home state and look forward to serving loyal customers across the Midwest as our distribution continues to grow," said Velvet Ice Cream President Luconda Dager. "As consumer demand increases, we are able to serve our customers wherever they choose to purchase their favorite frozen treats."


VP Racing Fuels Inc. is helping people get back to work by making a massive effort to get VP Hand Sanitizer into every hand.

"We're producing 30,000 gallons of VP Hand Sanitizer per day and shipping non-stop to retailers and major chains like AutoZone, 4 Wheel Parts, and Amazon," said Bruce Hendel, VP's vice president, North American sales — race fuel and consumer products. "Our product meets FDA and CDC guidelines, and we have designed a dispenser stand for our one-gallon pump bottle to accommodate higher volume usage for retailers' customers and race tracks' fans.

VP Hand Sanitizer is available in several sizes, ranging from the one-gallon pump bottle and 32-ounce pump bottle to commercial and industrial appropriate sizes in five-gallon pails, drums and totes.

 "We're also here to help EMTs, firefighters and other first responders, forestry workers, landscapers, racers, and anyone who needs it," Hendel added. "Hospitals, nursing homes, schools, daycares, restaurants, and bars — whoever has the need, we can fill it and fill it fast!"

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