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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — With spring drawing near, S. Abraham & Sons (SAS) offered convenience store operators the opportunity to cultivate new growth at its 2016 Vendor Exhibit and Trade Show, which took place Feb. 25-26 at Grand Rapids' DeVos Place Convention Center.
C-store chains, single-store owners and around 200 vendors gathered at the distributor's 30th show, which was "where the magic begins," according to this year's theme.
Snack suppliers recognized the c-store market is evolving in its demand for a quick bite and responded by offering more premium items, such as individual guacamole servings and bite-size fudge pieces that allow for small indulgences. Creativity was also on display with unusual snacks such as the Cheesewich, which substitutes cheese for slices of bread.
The Hershey Co. spotlighted its Krave beef jerky line, highlighting the ingredients list that consists only of "meat and spices" and previewed a promotional partnership with Angry Orchard hard cider.
Candy manufacturers displayed new varieties of existing brands, such as Mars' Snickers Crisper, and upcoming monthly promotions based on special occasions and sporting events.
Foodservice was a major focus for retailers in attendance as the industry as a whole continues to enhanced its prepared food offerings. Longtime c-store staples such as taquitos appeared in new forms like extra-long taquitos and taquitos/hot dog combos. Suppliers noted that grab-and-go offerings are in demand right now, along with bold and spicy flavors. Pizza also continues to do well.
Additionally, as foodservice becomes more important, daypart matters less. According to one supplier, c-stores should pay close attention to their specific market, as certain amount of customers are interested in eating breakfast items during non-breakfast hours and vice versa.
In the beverage category, coffee remained a hot property, with numerous blends and serving varieties, such as K cups, on display, but the next big thing on the horizon may be tea. One supplier stated the c-store tea market is currently where coffee was a decade ago, before c-stores recognized the opportunity it offered and enhanced their coffee programs.
As SAS celebrated three decades of the trade show, the company itself had recently finished the first stages of a self-improvement evaluation, according to President Alan Abraham, who described the connection between fulfilled employees, efficient work processes and happy customers.
SAS brought back its model c-store at the back of the exhibition hall to demonstrate its enhanced foodservice programs, but it also featured its new "space to sales" analysis, which helps retailers optimize their individual stores. This process examines the layout and stocked products at individual stores to determine which segments are underallocated or overallocated and how store owners can make adjustments to improve sales. The program is free to SAS customers.
At the official event dinner the evening of Feb. 25, Alan Abraham spoke onstage and thanked everyone in attendance, noting that the real convenience store magic comes from them.
Click on the image above to view a photo gallery of the event.