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Hot Beverages Innovator of the Year: Circle K

This is the first time in the Foodservice Innovators winners’ circle for Circle K. The new global convenience store brand of Canada-based Alimentation Couche-Tard is being recognized for recent enhancements made to its hot beverage offering. 

How-To Crew members pointed to several areas that have been addressed in a major category refresh that is going on across the entire Circle K store base and driven by the international retailer successfully sharing best practices throughout its footprint.

Its new global coffee program, first implemented in Europe, features:

  • An improved presentation that helps elevate the perceived quality of the products. Old coffee brewers have been replaced with new, all-stainless-steel ones. New, lighter-colored countertops have been installed, along with digital menu boards. The result is a fresh feel that is pleasant and compels customers into the area for a closer look.

  • An enhanced product offering with the addition of espresso-based drinks such as cappuccino, mochaccino and café latte. These products help provide an excellent alternative that is more affordable than the coffeehouse versions, while still commanding a nice premium compared to the store’s traditional coffee lineup.

  • New, double-walled paper cups are both enhancing the taste experience and demonstrating environmental responsibility.

  • Expanded condiments support the growing sales of espresso drinks.

Circle K is actively trying to make it easier for the customer. One example is its more customer-centric terminology, moving from a cup size based on ounces to a more relative description of small, medium and large.

In the stores where this program has been implemented, customer response has been very positive, according to the company’s nominators.  

Cold & Frozen Beverages Innovator of the Year: QuikTrip

QuikTrip has been a frequent winner in the CSNews Foodservice Innovators Awards program. In 2012, the Tulsa, Okla.-based chain was the Cold & Frozen Beverages Innovator of the Year; in 2013, it was Hot Beverages Innovator of the Year; in 2014, the retailer won two honorable mentions for Cold & Frozen Beverages Innovator and Best New Foodservice Program or Item; and finally, last year, the chain was Prepared Foods Innovator of the Year.

QuikTrip recognizes all the current trends in the cold and frozen beverages categories, and has quality programs in place that take advantage of them. The QT mega-fountain offers the latest in flavors and lifestyle additives, such as extra caffeine and proprietary sports drinks.

The selection for frozen carbonated and non-carbonated drinks is likewise better than most of its competitors, including custom flavors; and its dispensed beverage offer also includes four flavors of fresh, made-on-premises iced tea in both unsweetened and sweetened varieties.

QuikTrip, as part of its QT Kitchens foodservice program rollout, also added a full-service, soft-serve ice cream machine for making customizable shakes and cones. Hand-made, made-to-order smoothies are served as well by QT Kitchens attendants.

“They have a wide range of selection, terrific presentation, sharp prices and always top cleanliness,” said one How-To Crew member. And another added: “They’re still the best.”

Best New Foodservice Program or Item of the Year: Maverik

Another frequent winner in the Foodservice Innovators Awards program, Maverik takes home this year’s prize for Best New Foodservice Program or Item for its BonFire Grill made-to-order pizza. Previously, the Salt Lake City-based retailer won Best New Foodservice Program or Item in 2012; Best Foodservice Promotion or Limited-Time Offer in 2013; and was named the Foodservice Innovator of the Year in 2014.

Maverik this year continues to push the boundaries of fresh foodservice in the convenience channel by piloting the BonFire Grill pizza program, featured in the chain’s completely redesigned stores where fresh-food preparation takes center stage.

Neapolitan-style pizza on wood-fire infused crusts, with specialty flavors like Classic Italian and Spicy Thai Chicken, use high-quality ingredients (think Calabrian chilies and fresh Asian slaw) to create unique, destination-worthy food.

The pizzas come in two convenient sizes: a personal size that’s perfect for the lunch daypart, and a 12-inch size that spans the dayparts and reaches into the dinnertime offering.

By the end of this year, the BonFire Grill program (including pizza) will have been rolled out to more than 40 Maverik locations within the nearly 300-store chain. The company is also testing a few complementary made-to-order concepts like premium burgers, specialty subs and tacos to determine the best offers for expanding the BonFire Grill brand.

Best Foodservice Promotion or Limited-Time Offer of the Year: 7-Eleven

7-Eleven celebrated the 50th anniversary of its iconic Slurpee frozen beverage line this summer with a number of timely and unique promos that caught the attention of our How-To Crew members.

The nation’s largest convenience store retailer reportedly gave away an estimated 9 million free small Slurpees on Free Slurpee Day, July 11. 7-Eleven also introduced a Birthday Cake Slurpee flavor. Fanta Birthday Cake combines the tastes of birthday cake and vanilla ice cream.

The 50th anniversary campaign went beyond the Slurpee machine, too, with Slurpee-branded and -flavored items throughout the store, including doughnuts, lollipops, cotton candy, marshmallow pops, candy straws, Pop-Tarts, Chapstick, beach towels, socks, insulated beverage holders, T-shirts, and Slurpee party packs including a selfie stick.

Other innovative Slurpee promos this year included the launch of the Big Red Slurpee as a new summer variety. Big Red soda has strong roots in Texas and was made available in more than 650 participating 7-Eleven stores in the Lone Star State – part of 7-Eleven’s efforts to showcase national and regional soda favorites by recreating them as Slurpee flavors.

A second summer partnership, this time with Sour Patch Kids candy, led to the creation of the Sour Patch Redberry Slurpee. This limited-time variety was only available through the end of the retailer’s “100 Days of Summer” campaign. Mondelez International Inc.’s Sour Patch Kids is the No. 1 sour candy brand overall and a top-selling candy at 7-Eleven stores, while fruit-flavored Slurpees are among the most popular drinks with 7-Eleven customers.

And, just when you thought 7-Eleven couldn’t take the Slurpee craze any further, it introduced a limited-time Wild Cherry Slurpee doughnut. The bakery treat consisted of a cake doughnut speckled with pink inside and topped with wild cherry-flavored icing and sugar crystals.

2015 Honorees


CST Brands (Nice N Easy)


Kwik Trip


Quik Trip


RaceTrac


Rutter's


Sheetz

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