Supplier Spotlights: Altria Group, Paytronix, NCR & Republic Brands

Vroom Delivery, Big League Chew and others also announce new initiatives.

CHICAGO — 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:


Altria Group was recognized as a member of CDP 2021's Supplier Engagement Leaderboard for climate change, highlighting the company's work in sustainable supply chain management as well as that of its subsidiaries. Based on its Supplier Engagement Rating, which evaluates how effectively companies are engaging their suppliers on climate change, Altria ranked in the top 8 percent of companies that disclosed to CDP's full climate questionnaire.

CDP is a nonprofit that runs a global disclosure system on managing environmental impact. It assesses performance on supplier engagement using company responses to select questions on governance, targets, scope 3 emissions and value chain engagement

"We believe Altria's and our subsidiaries' strong, sustainable partnerships with our supplier base and trade partners are critical to our future success and the achievement of Altria's Vision," said Sal Mancuso, executive vice president, chief financial officer. "We are committed to driving sustainability and diversity through the value chain and we welcome the opportunity to engage further with our suppliers on environmental sustainability as a CDP supply chain member."


USA Softball named Big League Chew (BLC) the Official Gum of the USA Softball Hall of Fame Complex. USA Softball will promote BLC across various digital media platforms to engage with fans and show off their favorite flavors of gum.

Additionally, BLC pouches will be sold at all events held at the Complex in Oklahoma City, the Softball Capital of the World, throughout the 2022 season.

"USA Softball is thrilled to welcome Big League Chew as a sponsor for the Hall of Fame Complex here in Oklahoma City," said USA Softball CEO Craig Cress. "Big League Chew has been supportive of our Women's National Team program by creating a custom BLC pouch after the team's silver medal finish in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and extended their support of our sport with the launch of the 'Slammin Strawberry' flavor featuring a softball player on the package.

"We are excited to continue this relationship and look forward to bringing this classic gum to all teams and fans who visit the Softball Capital of the World this year," Cress added.

BLC also expanded its product selection to include gumballs coming in various packaging options such as the 80-count Team Rally buckets, and novelty baseballs and bats filled with gumballs, according to the company. Customers will have the option of sending a photo to "My Big League Chew" to order personalized packaging with their photo printed on the pouch.

"We are over the moon to partner with the premier women's softball organization in the United States," said Rob Nelson, inventor and Owner of Big League Chew. "We know girls love BLC, but the response from the softball community about the softball player pouch exceeded our expectations."


HFA Architecture and Engineering launched Matchstick, a concept design solution intended to put the customer experience at the forefront of the built environment.

Matchstick works with clients at all stages of development, from newcomers still honing their brand books to national retailers and convenience stores in order to create front-end designs to attract the best consumer experience.Award-winning architect Nicole Poole leads the Matchstick team.

"The launch of Matchstick comes as HFA continues to expand its menu of client solutions," said Dave Wilgus, president and CEO of HFA Architecture and Engineering. "Our culture of collaboration, integrity and long-term client relationships is all about coming to the table with a fresh perspective, and that's precisely what Nicole and Matchstick are bringing to our clients with these creative and innovative retail designs."

HFA Architecture and Engineering previously partnered with, and redesigned for, nationally recognized brands, c-stores and gas stations including Love Travel Stops, MAPCO Express, and EG America to help owners redefine a front-end fresher convenience experience with the customers at the forefront.


Mann Packing Co. Inc, a subsidiary of Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A. Inc., partnered with Mezete, a premium-quality, ready-to-eat food brand, to bring a new line of hummus products to American shoppers nationwide.

The partnership will bring product awareness to Mezete's new hummus and help provide consumers with nutrition, taste and convenience. Mezete On the Go Hummus is available in certain regions starting this month.

"The Mann Packing Co. team is very excited to partner with Mezete to offer authentic, eastern Mediterranean products to our customers nationwide," said Pablo Rivero, vice president of marketing, North America, Fresh Del Monte. "We believe the Mezete brand coincides with our core values by offering natural, convenient and high-quality products at an affordable price, without added preservatives. This new partnership will help incorporate more delicious, cross-cultural cuisine into our consumers' daily lives, and we encourage our shoppers to pick up a package at their local 7-Eleven and enjoy today."

The hummus is available in five signature flavors: Sundried Tomatoes, Zesty Mixed Herbs, Fire Roasted Red Pepper, Red Hot Chili and Classic Authentic Recipe.


Leading enterprise technology provider NCR Corp. topped the list of more than 100 suppliers to the retail and hospitality industry for the fifth consecutive year; one in six point-of-sale (POS) installations worldwide is from NCR, according to research and consulting firm RBR's annual market research report.

The report shows market growth in new stores and upgrades by retailers to offer new touchpoints, such as cafés of fresher produce. NCR has the largest market share in new POS software deployments, largely due to advancements in installations at grocery, convenience and drugstore retailers.

"The upgrade imperative has hit retail," said David Wikerson, president and general manager, NCR Retail. "Retailers are globally seeing consumer demand and they are looking to differentiate the in-store experience with software. And with our NCR POS Software that connects to the NCR Commerce Platform, retailers and restaurants can do just that."


Old Trapper, a family-run business distributing naturally smoked meat snacks, experienced growth of more than 30 percent in 2021, outpacing the category growth for the third consecutive year due to an increase in grocery and c-store retail sale categories.

According to the company, the brand's strong growth occurred despite ongoing supply chain issues and an all-time high cost of raw materials. Throughout 2021, Old Trapper experienced supply chain challenges resulting in an increase of more than 30 percent in logistics costs. Two new packaging lines were expected to open in May but did not complete until October.

"Brands across the globe are dealing with unprecedented challenges related to the pandemic and we are proud to be reporting our continued growth in both revenue and innovation," said Robert Leary, chief marketing officer at Old Trapper. "Our commitment to producing the highest quality product for our partners and customers keeps us focused during difficult times and successfully operating despite challenges."

Despite these challenges, Old Trapper added two new packaging lines that increased packaging capacity by more than 40 percent. In 2022, the company will add additional smokehouses which will increase smokehouse capacity by 40 percent.

"During 2021, we introduced our single serve beef stick, and our 15-ounce big bag of sticks featuring a reformatted snackable stick size and gusseted packaging. We also expanded our sponsorships throughout the sports and outdoor markets to further increase the overall visibility of the Old Trapper brand," Leary said. "Into 2022, our focus is on increasing our packaging and production capacity to continue our growth momentum and lead the beef jerky industry with innovation and a superior product. We are committed to keeping a shelf stable protein rich meat snack available during these times and we think our customers really appreciate that."


Paytronix Systems Inc., an advanced digital guest experience platform, announced that customer demand for its digital ordering platform, Paytronix Order & Delivery, doubled in the past 14 months.

Paytronix Order & Delivery, a customizable platform, provides c-stores and restaurants with hyper-personalized consumer behavior interactions for both in-person and online shopping.

"The entire food industry is in the middle of a revolution that is not only remaking consumer behavior but is also giving restaurants and convenience stores new ways to build their brands," said Andrew Robbins, CEO of Paytronix.

Tools like Order Experience Builder, FEEDback and Handoff ensure that operations, technical, and marketing teams take control of the full ordering channel so that menus look great, customer feedback reaches the right people at the right time and orders from delivery aggregators enter the operation correctly, according to the company.

Since December 2020, the demand for the native Order & Delivery solution within the Paytronix all-in-one guest engagement platform has jumped from 2,995 to 7,240 units served.


Republic Brands announced a major legal win in its fight against counterfeiters. On March 16, a federal jury awarded the provider of rolling papers and premium smoking accessories $11 million in damages from Georgia-based wholesaler Gabsons Novelties and its owner Raj Solomon, who was also found personally liable.

Following a three-day trial in Atlanta, the jury reached a unanimous verdict that Solomon and his company sold and distributed counterfeit rolling paper prodicts under Republic Brands' TOP and JOB trademarks.

The case against Gabsons and Solomon was the first of three cases going to trial in U.S. Federal Court in Georgia based on the results of criminal and civil raids and seizures of Republic Brands counterfeit product that took place in May 2019 with the assistance of law enforcement. The other cases against Star Importers & Wholesalers, and ZCell Novelties and their respective owners are expected to go to trial later this year.

Republic Brands has been successful in the last several years in achieving criminal and civil judgments against counterfeiters in Texas, Tennessee, Illinois, Virginia and elsewhere, the company said.

"Counterfeiters know that Republic Brands will use all means available under the law to protect our consumers' trust and our company's reputation," Republic Brands CEO Don Levin said. "This verdict validates those efforts and sends a strong message that the public will hold counterfeiters accountable for their actions."


SRP Cos., category manager and solutions provider to more than 50,000 retail outlets in North America, rebranded itself as Strategic Retail Partners (SRP). The new name and brand are intended to reflect a refinement of the company's strategic direction, which includes a new mission, vision and set of corporate values that guide its teammates.

"I believe that a strong mission/vision/values-driven culture supports team development and company growth," said Don McIntyre, CEO of SRP. "Our new company name and brand better illustrate our commitment to our customers and team and reflect the future direction of the company."

The changes also include an updated website and a new logo designed to that evoke the characteristics of speed, strength and innovation for its c-store retailer consumers.

"We're excited to launch these updates that more clearly connect our company, mission and value proposition for our customers," added Chief Commercial Officer Tim Ramsey. "These changes illustrate SRP's unique approach to being the most trusted provider of consumer products and tailored single-source retail solutions."

Customers and vendors can expect to see the updated branding rollout over the next several months.


Vroom Delivery teamed up with Trustly, a global online bank. The partnership enables Vroom customers to directly link their bank accounts when ordering online.

Trustly expedites the online checkout process when shopping at convenience stores. Consumers simply log in to their online bank account via Trustly's secure interface and pay directly with their bank accounts on its platform. This option eliminates the need to enter credit or debit card numbers, download an app or create a new account.

"We are always looking for ways to provide value to stores on the Vroom platform," said John Nelson, CEO of Vroom Delivery. "We believe this partnership will benefit retailers utilizing Vroom not only by lowering transaction costs, but also reducing risk of fraud. We are looking forward to rolling this feature out across our entire network of stores."

With more than 6,300 banks in Trustly's network, more than 99 percent of U.S. consumers are able to pay with Trustly today, according to the company. For a limited time, Trustly is co-funding a campaign offering stores' Vroom customers up to $5 cash back on their orders if they use Trustly when checking out.


Zebra Technology is acquiring Matrox Imaging. The deal further expands its fast-growing automation and vision technology solution space.

Matrox Imaging offers platform-independent software, software development kits, smart cameras, 3D sensors, vision controllers, input-output cards and frame grabbers used to capture, inspect, assess and record data.

The acquisition expands the portfolio of machine vision products, software and services Zebra can offer customers to help them thrive in the on-demand economy that is constrained by both labor shortages and limited supply of upstream goods and materials.

"The combination of Matrox Imaging's technical expertise with the global footprint of Zebra Technologies presents an opportunity for Matrox Imaging to accelerate its long-term strategic plan," said Lorne Trottier, president and co-founder of Matrox. "With its complementary machine vision and fixed industrial scanning portfolio, Zebra Technologies will be an excellent home for Matrox Imaging."

According to Zebra's recent Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Vision Study, 96 percent of decision-makers agree supply chain visibility provides a clear competitive advantage while 93 percent of food and beverage decision-makers surveyed for its Food Safety Supply Chain Vision Study plan on increasing investments in food monitoring technology in the next few years.