Supplier Spotlights: Cibo Vita, Five Star Food Service & KeHE Foods

The National Confectioners Association, Old Trapper and PepsiCo also introduce new initiatives and partnerships.
Amanda Koprowski
Associate Editor
Amanda Koprowski profile picture

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:

[Read More: Supplier Spotlights: ADD Systems, Cantaloupe & Eco-Products]

Nature's Garden Yoggies Sofi Award Winner banner

Cibo Vita

The Specialty Food Association named Nature's Garden's Probiotic Strawberry Yoggies the Sofi New Product Award Winner in the Confectionery/Non-Chocolate category in the 2023 Sofi Awards. 

The Sofi Awards — which have been bestowed annually since 1972 — are a top honor in the $175 billion specialty food industry.

The awards recognize one "new product winner" and one "gold product winner" in 53 specialty food and beverage product categories. Entries were judged strictly on a blind basis, without packaging, pricing, or any brand identification. Products were judged on taste — including flavor, appearance, texture and aroma — ingredient quality and innovation. Nearly 2,000 products from domestic and international makers were entered into the 2023 competition.

"We are honored that Yoggies have won a Sofi," said Emre Imamoglu, founder of Cibo Vita, parent company of the Nature's Garden brand. "We work hard to create unique, tasty and most importantly functional products for our customers. This award is the ultimate stamp of approval."

The Strawberry Yoggies will now compete against other category winners for the 2023 Sofi New Product of the Year Award, which will be selected and announced at the Summer Fancy Food Show in June.

Five Star Food Service new headquarter ribbon cutting ceremony

Five Star Food Service

Five Star Food Service opened a new corporate headquarters and support center in downtown Chattanooga, Tenn. 

Due to internal growth, Five Star made the decision to renovate an old warehouse just minutes away from the University of Tennessee Chattanooga, expanding the company's presence in the downtown area.

The new headquarters houses essential job functions such as operations, marketing and sales, accounting and finance, administration and support, human resources, safety and risk management, and more. The location also serves as a showcase for break room innovation with state-of-art coffee and water equipment, a modern micro market and kitchen, plus an entire room dedicated to testing new customer technologies and products.

"This has been a top priority for our team for so long and we are happy to see our leadership's vision come to reality. We are now able to provide a revolutionized breakroom experience to our team members, just as we do with our customers," said Geoff Wilcox, director of retail execution for Five Star.

The opening of the new corporate headquarters was celebrated with a ribbon cutting on April 17, with the Chattanooga Chamber and Five Star employees.

Protein Poppers logo

KeHE Foods

National food distributor KeHE Foods partnered with Pinecrest, Fla.-based 104 Sales Group Inc., making it one of its vendors. 

104 Sales Group will be responsible for distributing KeHE's Protein Poppers, a salty snack focusing on better-for-you health.  

Protein Poppers come in several flavors, both sweet and savory, such as Hickory BBQ, Cheddar, Birthday Cake and Chili Lime. The snacks are gluten free, vegan, Kosher and allergen-free.  

KeHE will have the product available in all 16 of its distribution centers by year-end to serve 12,000 customers and 30,000 storefronts. 

5-Star Energy Tidal Twist bottles on a beach

Living Essentials

Living Essentials' 5-hour Energy products launched a new flavor, Tidal Twist, which will be sold exclusively at participating 7-Eleven Inc. and Speedway convenience stores. 

"We love bringing our customers new and innovative products that can only be found at our stores  and can't wait to hear what they think about Tidal Twist," said Jack Stout, executive vice president and chief merchandising officer at 7-Eleven.

Tidal Twist features the proprietary 5-hour Energy Extra Strength blend containing B-vitamins, amino acids, nutrients, zero sugar and caffeine. With 230-miligrams of caffeine in each shot, it is equivalent to a 12-ounce cup of premium coffee, according to the maker. The new flavor also features limited edition artwork on the bottle. 

In addition to on-site purchases, customers can order 5-Hour Energy Tidal Twist to their doorstep through the 7NOW Delivery app.

National Confectioners Association

The Always A Treat campaign, spearheaded by the National Confectioners Association (NCA), took first place in the 2023 PRNews Social Impact Awards Cause Branding Campaign category.

[Read More: National Confectioners Association Names Ed Schultz 2023 Advocate of the Year] 

The PRNews Social Impact Awards honor organizations that use their platforms to better their community and the global community at large. Winners are the campaigns and initiatives that help to usher in a diverse, equitable future and redefine organizations' role in the fight for global change.

The Cause Branding Campaign category honors best-in-class efforts to raise awareness and generate consumer engagement for social issues. Winning campaigns showcase that the corporation's brand is aligned with a cause, resulting in a nonprofit-corporate partnership that significantly benefits the cause.

"Always A Treat brought directional alignment across the confectionery industry in a positive and impactful way. We appreciate the recognition of our leadership in providing more transparency, portion guidance and choice for consumers seeking to manage their sugar intake," said John Downs, NCA president and CEO. "We are proud of the remarkable results that we achieved together and will continue to meet the evolving wants and desires of our consumers and our valued retail partners." 

According to PRNews, Always A Treats was recognized for its efforts to help consumers manage their sugar intake by expanding candy manufacturers' portion guidance through smaller packaging, as well as its incorporation of social media and digital outreach to consumers.

Old Trapper logo

Old Trapper

As the official beef jerky of the Big 12, Pac 12 and Big Ten Conferences, Old Trapper will be adding their support to the respective baseball and softball programs at the week-long conference baseball and softball tournaments in late May. 

For the Pac-12 baseball and softball tournaments, as well as the Big Ten baseball and softball tournaments, Old Trapper created an in-game fan experience that will award Old Trapper's beef sticks to the fans cheering the loudest for their teams. Videoboard graphics will announce the experience during each game. The company will additionally have televised signage and stadium LED boards at the Big Ten games.

For the Big 12 baseball and softball tournaments, Old Trapper will have an onsite presence throughout the games with signage and in-stadium activations. This year's tournament will also feature a "Big Stick Homerun" activation that will award beef sticks to a lucky row of fans each time a Big 12 player hits a homerun. The Big 12 Fan Fest area will additionally feature a consumer experience where Old Trapper brand ambassadors will debut a custom Old Trapper jersey and hand out bags of jerky. 

Digital paid media and organic social media posts will be a part of all tournaments. 


Paytronix entered into an integrated partnership with customer data platform mParticle that will enable retail brands to connect data from Paytronix to mParticle.

With data from Paytronix available in mParticle, brands can create a 360-degree view of the customer through data from across varied sources and easily connect that data to their preferred advertising, CRM, customer service or analytics tools without any development work.

"Being able to integrate the Paytronix guest engagement platform with mParticle's customer data platform will be a game changer for enterprise organizations," said Dan Murphy, head of partnerships, Paytronix. "This partnership unlocks the ability for brands to use all of their data to inform their CX program and, consequently, their ability to build more meaningful campaigns."

Other features of the Paytronix-mParticle integration include real-time customer data collection and personalization, which enables marketing teams to orchestrate triggered messages and location-based experiences across channels through any connector in mParticle's integration network.

PDI Technologies

PDI Technologies has integrated with touchless self-checkout system Mashgin. The partnership will allow Mashgin to deploy its computer vision self-checkout system at retailers who use PDI.

Mashgin transactions can now automatically flow into the retailer accounting and reporting features of PDI Enterprise, which eliminates the manual tasks of data manipulation and accounting reconciliation. According to the company, the integration can be implemented in as little as a week, allowing retailers to take advantage of Mashgin's checkout while also ensuring that pricebook and related data are always correct and up-to-date. 

Additionally, the integration simplifies accounting by reconciling between a convenience store's primary point-of-sale and Mashgin, which keeps reporting consistent across stores that use Mashgin and those that have not yet been upgraded to Mashgin's frictionless self-checkout.

"Our goal is to unlock the power of retailer data to enable faster and better decision making across the convenience ecosystem," said Jeff Hassman, vice president of product strategy and partnerships at PDI Technologies. "The integration of Mashgin and PDI is a game changer for retailers looking to upgrade their self-checkout experience while keeping pricebook and other key data synchronized across stores and POS."

2023 PepsiCo Greenhouse Accelerator Program banner

PepsiCo Inc.

PepsiCo launched the Greenhouse Accelerator Program: Juntos Crecemos (Together We Grow) Edition, the first-ever Hispanic version of the program, which focuses on driving growth of emerging Hispanic-owned food and beverage businesses through collaboration and innovation.

Qualified businesses making or selling consumer goods or providing food and beverage services across the country can apply to the Greenhouse Accelerator program. From the pool of applicants, PepsiCo selects 10 high-potential brands, products and/or foodservice concepts to join the program in June, where they will receive $20,000 in grant funding and participate in a six-month business program designed to accelerate their growth. Mentors collaborate with the selected start-ups to solve a range of business challenges, such as brand development, scaling technology and business model development.

The companies then execute an initiative to demonstrate collaboration and tangible results, and in August, they share their progress in a virtual event to the evaluation committee. In November, the highest potential business is awarded an additional $100,000 to continue its expansion and potentially continue working with PepsiCo and Juntos Crecemos to further their growth.

"PepsiCo is continually looking for ways to expand access to small businesses and entrepreneurs, particularly within communities of color," said Antonio Escalona, senior vice president and general manager, Hispanic business unit at PepsiCo Beverages North America. "Knowing that Juntos Crecemos looks to help Hispanic entrepreneurs further grow their businesses, we saw an opportunity to collaborate with the Greenhouse Accelerator program to uncover emerging Hispanic-owned … services, and help them realize their business goals."

The Greenhouse Accelerator program first launched in Europe in 2017 and expanded to North America in 2018. Over the years, the program has evolved to support entrepreneurs that appeal to consumer needs, including sustainability and nutrition solutions. 

Vroom Delivery

E-commerce software provider Vroom Delivery partnered with ParTech's Punchh in order to enhance the online ordering experience of convenience store customers.

This partnership will allow c-stores to reliably list thousands of products online, as well as allow consumers to earn and burn loyalty rewards in the same way they would in-store. Brands could then potentially grow their value with guests and increase overall engagement by opening new channels for ordering and drive higher engagement among rewards members. 

The average delivery transaction with loyalty on Vroom is over $40, several times the average in-store transaction, according to the company.

"Our partnership with Vroom Delivery highlights how integral omnichannel solutions are to the convenience vertical, as well as how critical it is to offer real-time fulfillment," says Savneet Singh, president and CEO of PAR Technology's Punchh. "We're pleased to be able to partner with Vroom Delivery to reward customers and accelerate a higher standard in delivery, curbside and in-store transactions within the convenience store space."

[Read More: For Casey’s, the Future Is Omnichannel]

Wisconsin Fuel and Retail Association new logo

Wisconsin Fuel and Retail Association

To better align with the evolution of the fuel and retail industry, the Wisconsin Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association (WPMCA) rebranded as the Wisconsin Fuel and Retail Association (WFRA).  

"As our membership continues to evolve, and similar rebranding is being done across the country, we felt like the timing was right for the change," said Matthew Hauser, WFRA president and CEO. "We look forward to remaining a strong voice and resource for our industry."   

The change was announced at the association's annual convention, which took place April 11 in Lake Delton.   

Founded in 1926, the WFRA has more than 300 members that employ almost 30,000 people and operate more than 2,000 stores across the state of Wisconsin.