For MarsWrigley, the foodservice counter is an important feature of the c-store landscape, explained Mike Gilroy, VP trade development and sponsorships, MarsWrigley.
With the brand’s most popular candies—M&Ms, Snickers, Skittles and Twix—Gilroy described how its best-selling products are an opportunity for retail partners to create unique experiences for consumers.
“From an experiential standpoint, we’re able to take our brand-trusted products and we’re able to use those as inclusions in products that allow our partners to differentiate…themselves from all the different choices that consumers have,” he said.
With the release of its Peanut Butter M&M minis, for example, Gilroy said that the smaller and yet inimitably familiar format carves out another opportunity, bundling, in foodservice where operators can use the candy in its own baked goods, or consumers who are looking for last minute treats, can incorporate it into their own at-home baking or frozen treat experience—highlighting the category blurring between prepared foods and snacks.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to forge ahead and find new ways and new spaces for brands,” he added.
“There’s an opportunity within the c-store space for fill-in type trips…where you’re coming home from work or it’s late at night and you need [a certain] product,” he explained.
David Beck, director, portfolio marketing, salty snacks, Kellanova, said that the innate quick shopping pace of c-store consumers is a critical factor in driving brand relevance and value for operators.
“In c-stores, a lot of the strategy behind innovation is how are we helping to add value for our operators? The average store shopping trip is under 10 seconds, where people go in, grab their favorite snack or beverage and as they walk out, they may or may not grab a second item. And so what…helps our operators is bringing something forward that’s new and exciting for that c-store shopper to try to interrupt them on that quick 10 second trip,” Beck said.
Kellanova’s recent launch of Apple Jack Pop-Tarts leverages flavor, familiarity and nostalgia from both its Apple Jack cereal and Pop-Tarts brands, which, as Beck mentioned, taps into consumers’ curiosity on their way to the check out.
How consumers interact with the c-store environment will also help brands determine product development and placement.
Gilroy explained that designing the optimal environment allows Mars-Wrigley to ensure that opportunities are presenting itself to the consumer. The company’s transaction zone team “optimizes consumer experience and works with retailers’ data insights to see how products can be presented on shelf,” he said.
“We are making sure that our core items (about 40 SKUs) are in high velocity and high end distribution. You want your best sellers at eye level,” Daniel DeMeyer, senior director, commercial strategy, small format, Kellanova, explained.
Leveraging products and the c-store experience through cross promotions
One of the drivers behind c-stores’ transition into an experiential destination is the rise of electric vehicles where consumers’ shopping time is expected to increase from a few seconds to half an hour.
“The 10 second opportunity for EV drivers is going to be longer. How do we leverage our products or that c-store experience to make it more of an engaging shopping trip? Is it different displays in-store, offerings on shelves? How do you set up a c-store to take advantage of that?” explained Britt Williams, director, portfolio marketing, portable wholesome snacks, Kellanova.
Williams described how cross-promotions, in response to consumers more diverse and nuanced usage occasions where meals are snacks and snacks are meals, can drive store sales.
She highlights how Kellanova’s cross promotions can increase checkout sales, while creating an opportunity for new usage occasions.
“What we found in our research is that the trip is short, with the exception of the EVS they're charging, you're typically just getting two items. You're getting a beverage and most likely one snack. So, we do a lot of cross promotion with beverage. RX bar, we cross promote with coffee. When you can cross promote with a beverage, you're going to a make the retailer really happy because they're driving checkup,” Williams explained.
Food service is another area where brands and retailers can collaborate to drive in-store sales and build brand awareness.
“Consumers are buying prepared foods like hot sandwiches and Cheez-It snacks are a great accompaniment for lunch, so we run promotions where you guy a Cheez-It and get a discount on a sandwich,” Beck described.
Demeyer noted that implementing product launches during c-stores’ peak selling periods are also critical in driving brand awareness and in-store sales. Kellanova ships new launches to distributors in early December, “so they have time to get it to the retailers by the end of the month” so the products are ready for the beginning of the year.
“Most c-stores will bring in new items in Q1. They do that so that they can have all the new items in place in time for the peak selling periods, which are summer months—Memorial Day through Labor Day—which is when most people are on road trips, there’s more traffic and we see a higher lift during that time,” Demeyer explained.