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Supplier Spotlights: Mars Chocolate, Hunt Brothers & Unilever

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:


The Busch brand will return to NASCAR by sponsoring Kevin Harvick and the No. 4 team of Stewart-Haas Racing for select races, starting with the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. Busch, Busch Light and other special-edition Busch paint schemes will be featured on Harvick's No. 4 Chevrolet SS for 12 races in 2016.

"Busch's NASCAR roots go back to 1978 and we're thrilled to reconnect with these passionate fans that identify with our 'Here's to Earning It' message on a daily basis," said Chelsea Phillips, director of value brands, Anheuser-Busch. "Kevin and the entire No. 4 team have been tremendous partners for Anheuser-Busch since 2011 and we have exciting plans to engage with the NASCAR community both on and off the track nationwide in 2016."

To celebrate its return to the sport, Busch will employ a comprehensive marketing approach to engage with racing enthusiasts and loyal Busch consumers through on-track, experiential, in-market and retail activations during the 2016 NASCAR season, according to the announcement.

In other Anheuser-Busch news, Bud Light, the official beer sponsor of the National Football League, is introducing the Bud-E Fridge as the first-of-its-kind smart home beer fridge that lets consumers view real-time information from their refrigerator on their mobile device. This includes the number of Bud Light cans and bottles inside and when they reach the optimal temperature.

Developed by Bud Light, Buzz Connect and Linq IQ, the Bud-E-Fridge and its mobile app also lets sports fans program their favorite teams so it can keep them up to date on when games are approaching, at which point it will let them know if their game day supply of Bud Light needs replenishing. As fans restock their fridge, which has a 78-beer capacity, the Bud-E Fridge updates the stock level in real-time.

"We are constantly looking for innovative ways to enhance the consumer's experience and the Bud-E Fridge represents an unprecedented advance," said Lucas Herscovici, vice president of connections at Anheuser-Busch. "With the Bud-E Fridge, we've created something that shows how we continue to push the boundaries in technology and innovation, particularly in the connected home of the future, and provide beer drinkers with a new level of convenience to better enjoy Bud Light with their friends."

Coors Brewing Co.

Coors Light released the mobile game, Coors Light Super Refresh-Men, for iOs and Android devices. The 8-bit, brawler type video game challenges legal-drinking-age players to save the Rockies and deliver ice-cold refreshing Coors Light, expanding on the success of the original 2014 game, Coors Light Refresh-Men. This year, Super Refresh-Men will also expand to Xbox 360 and Xbox One.

"Super Refresh-Men is bigger and better this year, featuring new levels, storylines, bad guys, moves and power-ups," said Danielle Rappoport, senior marketing manager for Coors Light. "Fans of classic games will love the nostalgic look and feel of the game, whether battling Scorcher solo on the mobile game or playing with friends as Avalanche or Rocky on an Xbox console."

Players can select one of four Super Refresh-Men characters to battle through five levels and collect Coors Light along the way. The simple storyline and 8-bit style with overly pixelated imagery, bright colors and arcade-style typography is characteristic of brawler games of the 1980s, but with the modern twist of agents on a mission to deliver refreshing Coors Light to those in need, the company said.

DeMet's Candy Co.

DeMet's Candy Co., the maker of classic candy brands Turtles Caramel Nut Clusters and Flipz pretzels, launched phase one of a $41-million expansion plan of its Big Flats, N.Y., facility with a groundbreaking ceremony held Sept. 24.

The first phrase of the expansion will add approximately 20,000 square feet to the site and increase production capacity by roughly 50 percent while creating 20 new full-time jobs. It will also add a new research and development lab and new processing lines to enable further innovation and a broader range of products. Additionally, as part of the investment, aging equipment will be upgraded and new technologies will be employed to increase operational excellence.

Phase one will be fully operational by July 2016. Phase two will roll out in 2018 and add manufacturing lines and up to 50 more full-time jobs. The overall plan also includes expanded working space and employee services.

"The expansion is part of a long-term strategy to unlock further growth for Turtles and Flipz and expand DeMet's Candy Co.'s operations," said CEO Trip Tripathy said. "We aim to grow our business 20-25 percent over the next three years."

Drop Tank

Fuel rewards company Drop Tank launched a new fuel discount offer with Groupon. The initial Groupon offer launched in the Indianapolis market, consists of five CentsOff Marathon gift cards and sells for $40.

Each card is worth 10 cents off per gallon for 100 gallons, a $50 value. The cards are swiped prior to payment at participating Marathon gas stations and instantly drop the price.

"Our cards make great gifts because dropping the price at the pump is fun and everyone appreciates saving on gas," said Drop Tank CEO David VanWiggeren. "Working with Groupon is a natural fit because Groupon customers know a good deal when they see one."

Hunt Brothers Pizza

Just in time for hunting season, Hunt Brothers Pizza is bringing back its "Hunt to Win" sweepstakes for the fourth year in a row. This year's Hunt to Win program features a new partnership with country music star Easton Corbin, as well as returning partnerships with some of the biggest names in the sporting and outdoor industries, such as Bad Boy, Realtree and Bass Pro Shops.

Hunting and country music fans can now enter to win a grand-prize package of a Bad Boy Recoil iS Crew UTV, plus two VIP tickets to an Easton Corbin concert. Other prizes include:

  • First Prize: All-inclusive hunting trip for two with a Realtree pro-staffer
  • Second Prize (5): Oculus 7.0 Binoculars
  • Third Prize (10): Oculus Pro Team Binoculars
  • Additional Prizes (25): $25 Bass Pro Shops gift card

"We're excited to bring back our perennial fan favorite, Hunt To Win, and take it to the next level by including Easton Corbin," said Keith Solsvig, vice president of marketing for Hunt Brothers Pizza. "This will give us the opportunity to connect with around 14 million registered hunters and millions of country music fans — many of which are fans of our pizza, too. We are combining top prizes from our veteran partners Bad Boy, Realtree and Bass Pro Shops, but the country music angle makes this sweepstakes appeal to a wider audience than ever before."

Also back by popular demand are the limited-edition Hunt to Win pizza boxes. This year's redesigned box features a new Realtree camouflage design with five targets on the back of the box, making it perfect for target practice.

Mars Chocolate North America

M&M'S is partnering with the upcoming 20th Century Fox film "X-Men: Apocalypse" to serve as its exclusive chocolate and confectionery promotional partner. The film, which opens Friday, May 27, is considered to be one of the most widely anticipated movies of 2016.

"This deal truly brings together two of the biggest superheroes of Hollywood — M&M'S and X-Men," said Berta de Pablos-Barbier, vice president, marketing, Mars Chocolate North America. "X-Men is one of the most popular and thrilling franchises in movie history, and we like to say M&M'S are the official chocolate candies of the movies. Together, we hope to make the experience even more fun for movie lovers."

The M&M'S brand plans to leverage the partnership with a full 360-degree campaign that includes retail displays and packaging; digital and out-of-home media; TV and in-cinema advertising; consumer promotions; public relations; and social media content. M&M'S World and My M&M'S also will support the partnership with themed merchandise and special blends of candy featuring icons from the film.

In other Mars Chocolate news, the company celebrated Halloween by returning to its birthplace of Newark, N.J., to sponsor a two-day celebration that the entire community could enjoy. The celebration included a Halloween pop-up M&M'S store, more than 15,000 free costumes, a celebrity appearance from recording artist Kelly Rowland, and free M&M'S candies.

"Newark is a community right in our own backyard with a strong historical connection to M&M'S," said Tanya Berman, senior brand director, M&M'S Brand. "I can't imagine a better way to celebrate our shared heritage than by creating an event that will enable the entire community to come have a good time this Halloween."

Mars also partnered with the city of Newark and the United Way of Essex County to host the M&M'S Family Fun Zone from 4-8 p.m. on Oct. 28. The event featured family-friendly activities, including face painting, caricature drawing and balloonists, plus free candy. And to keep the fun going after the event, M&M'S donated $25,000 to the United Way of Essex County to support community-based programs.


Unilever is partnering with Snaps, an end-to-end marketing platform for mobile messaging, to promote its Wall's ice cream brand during the changing seasons in both hemispheres. In the European market, Wall's will use Snaps' keyboard to engage with younger audiences during the back-to-school season, while in Latin America, Wall's will encourage peer-to-peer sharing on messaging applications to make ice cream top-of-mind as the weather warms up for summer.

Wall's is the first Unilever brand to launch a keyboard that features emojis, stickers and GIFs to drive engagement with young adults.

"Emojis are a universal currency for communicating. Unlike written language, people understand what it means to share a smiley, a heart or an airplane," stated Snaps CEO Christian Brucculeri. "Working with Unilever to provide brand experiences that can be universally understood, globally, is an amazing win for Snaps and Wall's."

As part of the "Goodbye Serious" campaign, the Wall's keyboard includes more than 50 emojis, stickers and GIFs featuring all of Wall's ice cream flavors with popular internet sayings, and campaign lines such as "You're Making Me Melt." The keyboard can be found in the Apple iTunes or Google Play stores.

"This partnership with Snaps is a great example of how Unilever is partnering with start-ups through the Unilever Foundry to take them from 'start-up' to 'scale-up'," said Jeremy Basset, head of Unilever Foundry. "What's exciting about Snaps is it puts our brands at the heart of the conversation, helping us move from interruptive advertising to interactive brand engagement."

VideoMining Corp.

In-store behavior analytics provider VideoMining Corp. launched its seventh annual Convenience Shopper Insights (CSI) MegaStudy. The tracking program leverages collaboration with major c-store retailers across the United States to provide perspective into the actual behavior of c-store shoppers.

The yearly channel-specific program generates data and insights from a massive sample of c-store trips and provides reports ranging from store-wide and category benchmarks to deep dives into hot button areas such as forecourt, foodservice, Hispanics and millennials.

This year's CSI program features a 40-percent expansion of its retailer footprint, with Chevron, Shell and Rutter's joining existing retailers Circle K, Cumberland Farms, Maverik, ampm, Thorntons, RaceTrac, Holiday and GetGo. Several analytics features have also been added.

"For retailers, a key advantage is the ability to benchmark vs. the panel to see how well their stores are performing and uncover opportunities to improve store layouts, merchandising and operational efficiency," said Rajeev Sharma, executive chairman and founder of VideoMining. "Our manufacturer clients have leveraged the insights to refine strategies across a wide range of areas — from tailoring product positioning to reflect changing need states by daypart to gaining a more complete understanding of consumer decision trees or designing new display concepts."

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