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    7-Eleven Stores Rev Up

    Chain introduces the first U.S. to-go coffee with natural herbal extracts.

    DALLAS -- While some restaurateurs and retailers have chosen to rev up their coffees with added caffeine, 7-Eleven, Inc. is taking a more natural approach with the launch of Fusion Energy coffee, believed to be the first fresh-brewed, to-go coffee blended with natural herbal extracts. The product is now available nationally at participating 7-Eleven stores.

    Fusion Energy combines the chain's Exclusive Blend coffee with guarana, ginseng and yerba mate, all herbs that are thought to boost energy and sharpen mental alertness. The herbal-enhanced Fusion Energy coffee tastes no different than 7-Eleven stores' best-selling Exclusive Blend variety, but allows 7-Eleven to now provide customers with an entirely new coffee product, according to the company.

    The Fusion coffee concept was born at a 7-Eleven coffee roasters summit in Vancouver, during which 7-Eleven beverage executives met with its coffee suppliers from the United States and Canada. 7-Eleven Coffee category manager Donald Driver asked the experts around the table if it was possible to develop a functional hot beverage.

    "Fusion offered a whole new direction for us," Driver said. "We asked our roasters if they could take our idea of marrying energy and coffee and make a functional hot beverage a reality. Herbal energy drinks have taken the non-carbonated market by storm. Antioxidants are good in wine; why not coffee? Could we create an herb-enhanced coffee with better-for-you aspects that didn't distort our great coffee taste and without any bitterness or unpleasant aftertaste?"

    The answer was yes. A roaster at the meeting had heard about a small Canadian company called Fusion Coffee that was blending natural herbs with coffee for online and retail sales on a small scale. Tested in Canadian 7-Eleven stores last summer with resounding success, Fusion Energy coffee was given the green light to launch nationally in the U.S.

    Mother Parkers Tea & Coffee produces approximately 80 percent of all the coffee brewed at 7-Eleven stores and developed a process to blend the herbal extracts with 7-Eleven stores' fresh-roasted ground coffee.

    The company's high-tech Fort Worth plant receives the proprietary blend of the three herbs, ground and ready to be infused with the fresh coffee. Imported 100 percent Arabica green coffee beans are shipped directly from the countries of origin through the port of Houston and onto the Fort Worth facility where they're roasted, ground, blended and packaged to exacting specifications for 7-Eleven.

    "Because of the flexibility and technology designed into our state-of-the-art facility coupled with our strong relationship with 7-Eleven, we could quickly and easily respond to Donald's request to make and package this innovative new product," said Dennis Paynter, Mother Parkers vice president of U.S. operations.

    According to the 2006 National Coffee Drinking Trends study conducted by the National Coffee Association, 57 percent of coffee drinkers between the ages of 18 and 24 drink coffee away from home everyday. The total daily coffee consumption for that age group has almost doubled in the past three years. With its introduction of Fusion Energy coffee, 7-Eleven hopes to quench the thirst of young American adults -- also the target audience for energy beverages -- for hot to-go coffee and performance-enhancing beverages in a single product.

    "Performance-enhancing foods and beverages are incredibly popular right now," Driver said. "Witness the explosive growth in functional protein and energy bars, supplements, energy drinks and protein shakes. We know our customers want coffee and energy. Our new Fusion Energy coffee offers both."

    Fusion Energy coffee retails for the same price as any hot beverage at 7-Eleven. Driver anticipates that the chain will continue to develop and bring to market more new performance-based products this year under the Fusion brand.

    Based in Dallas, Texas, 7-Eleven operates, franchises or licenses more than 7,200 7-Eleven stores in North America. Globally, 7-Eleven operates, franchises or licenses some 31,700 stores in 17 countries and U.S. territories.

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