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GRAPEVINE, Texas — Fighting in the military and winning the Super Bowl may be a far cry from operating a convenience store, but there are more similarities than one might think, according to Chad Hennings, keynote speaker at the 2016 McLane National Trade Show held here last week.
Hennings, who took part in 45 successful combat missions as part of the U.S. Air Force and had a nine-year career in the National Football League, discussed how his time in both organizations was part of a "pursuit of excellence" where the steps along the way made it meaningful; not just ultimately achieving excellence.
He outlined how members of the convenience store industry could follow their own pursuit of excellence by embracing five key steps: vision, evaluate, train, plan and execute.
Hennings' keynote speech was part of the McLane National Trade Show's "Profit Playbook" theme, which encouraged attendees to plan and strategize for their business the way players and coaches would a football game.
The event, held Aug. 30 through Sept. 1 at the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center, also featured a panel discussion on the state of the c-store industry. The panel's "starting lineup" included Thomas Briant, executive director and legal counselor for the Minnesota Wholesale Marketers Association; Jason English, managing director, equity research at Goldman Sachs; and Nik Modi and David Palmer, both managing directors for RBC Capital Markets.
Discussion among the panelists focused on issues that retailers should be aware of and spanned a wide range of topics, from the potential of a future ban on flavored other tobacco products, to the impact of fresh foodservice on packaged products, to minimum wage increase laws possibly leading to more kiosk service. Briant also noted the greatest threat to retailers that sell tobacco is overly restrictive local regulations, but that "local is all about local," and area officials want to hear from businesses that would be affected.
In addition, morning breakout sessions at the show focused on a number of individual topics. Deon Johnson, vice president of customer technology at McLane, introduced and demonstrated the capabilities of the company's new Premium Order Management Suite (POMS) for Android and Apple iOS mobile devices, which includes ways to increase efficiency and simplicity at a convenience store.
"The number of things that take place at the store level is overwhelming," Johnson said, adding that the c-store industry is changing, and change comes from technology.
POMS apps launching this year include the Delivery Tracker, which lets store operators stay alerted to the last known location of their delivery truck and the current status using Google Maps. "We understand that your time is important," Johnson said.
Other apps include McLaneLink, a new dashboard alert and reporting tool that handles store data and planograms; McLane's DSD app; and AirWatch device management.
The apps are intended to aid chain and single-store retailers alike, regardless of their technical ability, according to Johnson. "We don't care who you are, it should work," he told Convenience Store News.
During a "State of the Snack Food Industry" panel, Goldman Sachs' English discussed the "global phenomenon" of snacks gaining share of food around the world, as baked and processed foods are losing share. Global snacking growth is poised to accelerate while packaged snack growth is expected to stagnate, and this is driven entirely by millennials, who are the next decade's driver of food consumption growth, he stated.
Although an entire generation has many internal differences and it is "unfair to put them all in one bucket," millennials are around-the-clock snackers. In fact, 53 percent of their meals are actually just snacks, he cited.
"The idea of three square meals a day died a long time ago," English said. "Their consumption is different. Therefore, what they buy is going to be different."
Convenience, though, still resonates as the desire for "quick and easy" dominates. Big brands are growing less popular with millennials as brand loyalty is lower, but they are also more willing to try new things and experiment with flavors, he further noted.
ON THE EXPO FLOOR
The trade show exhibition hall featured a wide variety of c-store industry suppliers, many of whom were showcasing healthier and less-processed products. Grab-and-go, convenience-centric items and extensions of already-popular brands were also prevalent.
For the first time at any trade event, McLane featured a McLane Kitchen booth with a fully functioning kitchen designed to demonstrate the capabilities of the distributor's program. Not a retail brand itself, McLane Kitchen facilitates foodservice using existing brands. Every hourly recipe demonstration cooked on-site at the show was made with products McLane Kitchen carries. For instance, retailers are encouraged to leverage the power of strong brands, such as offering a "General Mills Yogurt Parfait" made with strawberries, granola and yogurt.
McLane Kitchen also assists store operators with packaging and other materials, and offers ways to customize store-branded cups at minimal cost, according to the Temple, Texas-based distributor.
Fresh produce was a focus at the show as well, along with McLane's collaboration with the Partnership for a Healthy America (PHA). The company's first list of PHA-approved items will be released in 2017, according to company representatives.
This year's McLane National Trade Show also featured the debut of its newly renamed private label line to CVP (Consumer Value Products), as CSNews Online previously reported. The line was formerly marketed under the Salado Sales name. This move will include the debut of five new brands and provide an exclusive mix spanning 240-plus foodservice, automotive, candy, snacks, general merchandise, grocery, health, beauty and wellness products.
McLane Co. Inc. is one of the largest supply chain service providers in the United States, offering grocery and foodservice supply chain solutions for convenience stores, mass merchants, drugstores and chain restaurants.