Supplier Spotlights: Upside, Hunt Brothers Pizza & NACS

VideoMining, Inline Plastics and others also announce new partnerships and share brand updates. 

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:


Upside, a retail technology company previously known as GetUpside, raised $65 million in equity financing and $100 million in debt financing from venture capitalist firm General Catalyst, with participation from existing investors including Bessemer Ventures and Builders VC.

The fundraising brings Upside's valuation to $1.5 billion.

Upside is a two-sided marketplace platform that drives proven, incremental profit to businesses, while at the same time giving users more purchasing power on the things they need everyday, according to the company. More than 50,000 grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and convenience stores across the country have partnered with Upside, and 30 million consumers have access to Upside offers through its app and partner apps.

To date, Upside has driven $550 million back into local communities, and has committed 1 percent of all revenue to sustainability initiatives related to its areas of operation. 

"With inflation at a 40-year high, we are at an inflection point right now for brick and mortar businesses, consumers, and our communities. As businesses look for new ways to profitably grow, consumers are looking for ways to gain more purchasing power on the things they need," said Alex Kinnier, Upside co-founder and CEO. "We are always focused on the win-win-win and are proud to have built the only product that delivers measurable benefits for all points of brick and mortar commerce."

The company's business model ensures that there is only upside for users, businesses and communities. Following its rebranding, the company has a simpler name to match. The evolution of the Upside brand aligns with its growth to date and continued focus on mutual benefit for businesses, people and communities. This round of fundraising will be used to accelerate user growth, expand into new retail categories, invest in product development and hire top talent.

Hunt Brothers Pizza

Hunt Brothers Pizza

Hunt Brothers Pizza expanded its distribution services to the New Mexico market. Its foodservice distribution partner TBHC Delivers will service the state. Together, the companies provide convenience store operators in New Mexico the opportunity to offer hot, fresh-baked pizza.

With more than 30 years in the convenience store industry, the Hunt Brothers Pizza program offers hot, quality food options that have become foodservice staples in more than 8,000 locations across the United States. Beyond its customizable menu offerings, the program encompasses a unique set of perks that allow for easy integration and implementation of the program into any size convenience store with a variety of pizza shop options, personalized service, ongoing training and a brand name that consumers have come to love and trust.

"Our primary goal is to be a blessing to our store partners by providing a profit center in their store with consistent margins as other margins continue to shrink," said Dee Cleveland, Hunt Brothers Pizza director of marketing. "We believe in maintaining strong partnerships and want to partner with our stores every step of the way to help ensure their pizza program is set up to serve their community best."

The family-owned company's foodservice partnership brings New Mexico c-store owners a trusted brand, unmatched service and quality offerings that, when adopted, will ultimately lead to evolving convenience store offerings and business growth in the region, the company said.

Inline Plastics

Inline Plastics, a manufacturer of crystal clear food packaging containers, opened a new manufacturing plant located in Gladwin, Mich., at the former Cam Packaging facility.

This addition secures a Midwest production and distribution facility to complement Inline's existing facilities in Shelton, Conn., in the Northeast; McDonough, Ga., in the South; and Salt Lake City in the West.

"We are excited to announce the purchase of Cam Packaging's operation," said Tom Orkisz, chairman and CEO of Inline Plastics. "Its large bed thermoforming machines and talented workforce will provide Inline with an instant increase in capacity to fulfill customer and consumer demand for our food packaging that delivers quality, freshness and eye-catching merchandising."

Inline Plastics transformed the marketplace with its Safe-T-Fresh line, a tamper-resistant and tamper-evident product which utilizes their patented tear-strip technology, providing retailers and consumers with greater product protection, according to the company. It continues to design and manufacture packaging solutions that keep food products safe, fresh, and enhance shelf merchandising.

KAG Energy Logo

Kenan Advantage Group

Kenan Advantage Group Inc., (KAG) North America's largest tank truck transporter and logistics provider of fuel, chemical and products, is transitioning its fuel subsidiaries to KAG Energy LLC.

This is the first step in combining the company's five KAG Fuels operating companies (Kenan Transport LLC, Advantage Tank Lines LLC, Klemm Tank Lines LLC, Petro Chemical Transport LLC and KAG West LLC) under one brand.

KAG Energy is the largest transporter of petroleum-based products in the country, annually delivering more than 30 billion gallons of refined petroleum products and renewables to its customers nationwide. The rebranding to KAG Energy better reflects the vast service offerings the company provides its diverse and ever-changing customer base.

The company has more than 30 different product segments which support the energy services sector of the country to include products such as asphalt, butane, propane, plastics, transmix and crude oil.

"By creating this entity and combining these subsidiaries into one company, we further strengthen our exceptional services to our customers while making sure we are better unified as 'One Team' under KAG Energy," said Jason Platt, executive vice president of KAG Energy. "The transition will take time, but will allow us to streamline our operations, better capitalize on our extensive U.S. footprint with our 4,000 professional drivers and independent contractors, capture best practices of all operating groups and, most importantly, continue to provide our customers with the first-class service they have come to expect from KAG."

"Based on our size and geographical presence, we can better utilize our professional drivers and independent contractors in our fleet, which is so important in today’s transportation industry which is experiencing the effects of the nationwide supply chain crisis," Platt continued. "We are excited about this change as it better positions us for growth and more accurately reflects the services our valuable team members and contractors are performing."


NACS received the 2022 Energy Star Award for Excellence in Energy Star Marketing from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy. 

Each year, the Energy Star program honors a group of businesses and organizations that have made outstanding contributions to protecting the environment through superior energy achievements. Its winners lead industries in the production, sale and adoption of energy-efficient products, homes, buildings, services and strategies. 

"NACS is proud to play a leadership role in developing tools for convenience retailers to make a difference in the communities they serve, whether related to improving energy efficiency, offering healthy options, fighting human trafficking, enhancing food safety systems or reimagining the next generation of age-verification for age-restricted products. We look forward to continuing to work with Energy Star to provide retailers with tools that can enhance their operations," said NACS Vice President of Strategic Industry Initiatives Jeff Lenard.

NACS first partnered with EPA's Energy Star program in 2019 to create convenience store-specific resources designed to help the industry reduce energy use and costs.  As part of this effort, NACS and Energy Star launched the NACS Energy Use Survey to capture convenience store data necessary for measuring store energy use and to create the convenience retail industry's first and only Energy Star Score. These benchmarking tools are slated to be released later in 2022.

"The 2022 Energy Star award-winning partners are demonstrating what it takes to build a more sustainable future," said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. "These organizations are showing once again that taking action in support of a clean energy economy can be good not only for the environment, but also for business and customers."

PayByCar Inc.

PayByCar, a mobile payments startup responsible for providing pay-by-text payments at gas stations across Massachusetts, completed a $4-million seed funding round.

This follows PayByCar's 2021 statewide launch of its exclusive in-vehicle payment platform that includes partnerships with the E-ZPass Group, the Massachusetts Department of Transportations, Global Partners LP, Star Systems International and others.

The funding will push PayByCar's next chapter in financing the expansion of its services across states, and industry verticals like parking, retail and other sectors.

PayByCar allows customers with toll transponders like E-ZPass or PayByCar windshield stickers to perform contactless payments on gas purchases at participating locations from their mobile device, without ever having to touch the pump screen or use cash, credit cards or mobile apps. Users pay by confirming a text message when they drive into a participating location, without having to open their wallet or touch the fuel dispenser keypad.

VideoMining Logo


VideoMining introduced Behavior Labs, a retailer-specific "test & learn" platform for optimizing retail performance using advanced shopper analytics.

Each Behavior Labs program utilizes prescriptive analytics with behavioral sensing and artificial intelligence to help identify opportunities and rapidly test innovation with a specific retailer. The program also enables better collaboration between consumer packaged goods manufacturers and the retailer for enhancing in-store shopper experience and improving sales results.

Leveraging real stores and data from actual in-store behaviors, Behavior Labs programs are designed to help incorporate the true "voice of shopper" in any aspect of retail strategy. It can help detect and quantify shopper "friction" that results in lost sales, such as a hard-to-shop category, unattractive assortment, pricing barriers, poor packaging, out of stock, crowding and other common issues.

Overall, as a testing platform, Behavior Labs further help understand the holistic impact on shopper behavior from new product introduction, promotions, secondary displays, planogram resets, signage, trial adjacencies and packaging changes. The test stores are dynamically selected from a pre-qualified set of lab stores to meet the objectives of a specific A/B test or custom study. 

"In today's rapidly evolving retail environment, it's critical for both retailers and manufacturers to quickly adapt and align their strategies with the shopper," stated Dr. Rajeev Sharma, founder and CEO of VideoMining. "Behavior Labs create a powerful collaboration framework for learning from relevant shopper behaviors and testing ideas in real stores, leveraging our sensing/AI technologies and expertise in behavioral science."

The retailer-specific Behavior Labs extend VideoMining's  industry shopper insights programs in grocery and convenience, to retailers in all channels. For retailers that are already in the shopper insights programs, the metrics from Behavior Labs can be indexed to the industry numbers, providing additional insights from benchmarking.


Zippin, the leading provider of checkout-free technology, reached a key milestone of servicing more than 1 million shoppers in one its 50 Zippin-powered stores. The company calculates that it has saved consumers more than 83,000 hours to-date, estimating that frictionless retail reduces the average shopping trip by 10 minutes.

With a tap of a credit card to enter the store, shoppers pick what they need and exit, without waiting in line. Zippin uses multi-modal AI-powered technology to deliver the most accurate solution to its partners. Even in locations with high foot traffic, such as stadiums and venues that offer a complex selection of products, Zippin's AI software automatically tracks what items are selected by which person, and whether they are put back, or leave with the shopper.

"Retailers are under immense pressure to deliver fast, frictionless experiences for consumers, and this is especially true in high-traffic venues where time is limited," said Krishna Motukuri, CEO and co-founder of Zippin. "We recognize that speed can't come at the expense of accuracy. With each new store launch, Zippin's AI improves its ability to provide the best experience for both retailers and shoppers, who are fast coming to expect this level of convenience. That's why it's so important that we continue to scale, quickly."

As the desire for more and more frictionless experiences continues to grow, Zippin plans to scale rollout of its technology with key partners around the globe, improving the overall retail experience and establishing its position as the top checkout-free platform provider.