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    Supplier Spotlights: Conagra Foodservice, Hunt Brothers Pizza & Keurig

    A&W Restaurants, MilkPEP also make announcements.

    NATIONAL REPORT — While it's important for convenience store retailers to market themselves, new products, services, promotions and other initiatives by c-store suppliers are a major part of capturing consumer interest. Convenience Store News will regularly highlight such efforts in this roundup.

    Here are the latest supplier spotlights:

    A&W Restaurants

    In late 2016, A&W Restaurants Inc. celebrated its five-year anniversary under franchisee ownership. In that time, the company experienced non-stop, year-over-year same-store sales and profit gains, as well as the opening of more than 40 new units in the United States, including 15 in convenience stores.

    A&W, America's oldest restaurant chain, was previously owned by YUM! Brands for nine years. In late 2011, a core group of franchisees established A Great American Brand LLC to buy A&W. Kevin Bazner, president of A&W prior to the YUM! acquisition, returned as CEO.

    "A&W's future was very much in question," Bazner. "If not for the franchise partners' investment, hard work and passion, A&W would not be where it is today."

    Since 2012, A&W has seen system-wide sales and profits grow every quarter, with same-store-sales up nearly 24 percent; the opening of 41 new U.S. restaurants and 20 planned for 2017; the introduction of 23 new products; and the development of versatile prototype and kitchen designs that can be adapted to a variety of settings, including gas stations and convenience stores.

    More than 625 A&W locations currently operate in the U.S.

    "We acquired a troubled brand with a franchise community that was very apathetic, having been neglected for many years," Bazner said. "Our initial goal was to grow profitable sales, one restaurant at a time, and we've accomplished that. With the brand stabilized, A&W is turning to adding new locations, with a new franchise sales initiative launching in early 2017. It will include a focus on gas and convenience stores."

    Conagra Foodservice

    Foodservice operators have a new resource in the form of Culinary Trends, Conagra's new bimonthly newsletter. Each edition focuses on a single trend making an impact in foodservice, supported by marketing research, consumer insights, segment-specific news, menu concepts, videos and more.

    "There is a growing demand for manufacturers to provide useful resources to restaurant and non-commercial operators alike, and Conagra Foodservice is answering this call with a culinary-focused platform," said Elizabeth Eaton Convy, associate manager customer marketing for Conagra Foodservice. "We're developing content with the needs of our customers in mind. Our goal is to partner with operators and provide innovative solutions to address trends across their menus in creative and profitable ways."

    Topics covered so far include retro cuisine, clean labels and alternative sweeteners. Operators can sign up to receive the newsletter here.

    Hunt Brothers Pizza

    For the seventh year in a row, Hunt Brothers Pizza will serve as a sponsor of NASCAR driver Kevin Harvick. The two will pair up in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and the NASCAR Xfinity Series with Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) this season. This marks the first season that Hunt Brothers and Harvick will compete in the Xfinity Series together.

    Harvick will drive the new #41 Hunt Brothers Pizza Ford Mustang in these Xfinity Series races:

    • Texas Motor Speedway – April 8
    • Charlotte Motor Speedway – May 27
    • Kentucky Speedway – July 7
    • Darlington Raceway – September 2

    Hunt Brothers Pizza will also serve as an associate sponsor of Harvick in each of his NASCAR Cup Series races in 2017. The pizza brand, SHR and Harvick have partnered for four years in the NASCAR Cup Series, including his championship season in 2014.

    Keurig Green Mountain

    Keurig Green Mountain Inc. launched its first dedicated website designed to help operators build premium coffee and beverage options in the away-from-home channel. The site, Commercial.Keurig.com, is mobile-friendly and adapts to accommodate any device. It supports customers in commercial segments such as restaurants, offices, convenience stores, health care, hospitality and college and university.

    "At Keurig, we're committed to investing in tools that help our commercial customers create the ultimate beverage experience for guests," said Charlie Wood, director of foodservice marketing at Keurig. "Our new website has been designed with those customers in mind — featuring everything from training tools to signature beverage recipes to help operators brew a more robust bottom line."

    The homepage has segment-based navigation to make it easier for users to find relevant information depending on the type of operation they run. Within industry-specific sections, operators can find everything from menu ideas to insights specific to that business and merchandising support.

    Along with segment-based information, the new site features training videos and coffee trends that are helpful across the industry, from millennial coffee consumption habits to how iced coffee has dominated menus. The insights are used in the new library of recipes, including inspiration for coffee- or tea-based alcoholic beverages and creative spins on the traditional specialty beverages.

    MilkPEP

    The National Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP) launched the second year of My Morning Protein, an innovative effort focused on providing shoppers protein solutions for the whole family. Starting in early January, the program will continue to elevate milk and milk’s high-quality protein to show how milk is a simple, delicious way for moms to add protein to their families’ morning routine, according to the organization.

    The program's integrated 360-degree approach includes national advertising, point of sale (POS) and promotional materials, ready-to-use social content, engaging influencers, key partners such as Food Network Magazine, and more.

    Retailers can cross-merchandise in-sore, leveraging MilkPEP POS materials and more to showcase the ease of coming together in the morning as a family to get high-quality with milk to start the day strong.

    ZipLine

    ZipLine, a provider of mobile and card-based private label debit payment technology to the c-store industry, has been granted a patent relevant for use of a digital token to facilitate an ACH payment transaction, a significant security enhancement.

    U.S. Patent 9,489,673 (USSN 14/683,180) complements intellectual property held by the company, ZipLine said. The company has a total portfolio of nine issued patents.

    "We are pleased to receive this patent especially as the patented technology is being well received in the marketplace," said Danilo Portal, chief innovation officer of ZipLine.

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