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ROSEMONT, Ill. — Eby-Brown Co. LLC made two major changes to its annual Eby-Expo trade show this year. Along with dividing into two shows to better accommodate its customers — one in Cleveland, Ohio, and the other in Rosemont, Ill. — the convenience store distributor opened a second show floor focused solely on foodservice.
The company's goal is to leverage its understanding of both prepared food programs and general retail to help c-stores improve on both fronts.
While broadline foodservice distributors may be experts in their area, Eby-Brown executives note that those suppliers accustomed to servicing restaurants do not have experience catering to customers who visit in search of both food and non-food items.
In its dealings with manufacturers, Eby-Brown's message is to "Get creative, have fun with it," while its message to retailers is "How can we make you unique?", according to representatives at Eby-Expo Midwest, held April 27-28 at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare in Rosemont.
The foodservice show floor featured a number of Eby-Brown's proprietary programs. The new Savory Corner Café, which combines a roller grill, a rack for side snacks and toppings, and a tablet displaying video of ways to prepare the available offerings was on display to garner feedback. Eby-Brown also continues to develop its Wakefield Sandwiches line, which added color-coding for ingredients in the past year and is undergoing a packaging change.
The foodservice show floor included a stage and seating area, where attendees could view demonstrations, including an Iron Chef-style cooking challenge performed by chefs and sales managers using convenience store products and ingredients.
The expo also highlighted solutions Eby-Brown offers in other categories, from category management, to technical help in the form of its Eby SourcePoint 360 mobile app.
As for the distributor's manufacturer partners, vendor highlights on both show floors included:
F'real introduced its first small-footprint, behind-the-counter B7 blender, designed for foodservice retailers such as quick-service and fast-casual outlets, as well as other locations with restricted space, including kiosks.
The unit is not self-serve, so it requires operation by store employees, but one-touch blending allows c-stores to provide fresh-made milkshakes and smoothies in less than 60 seconds. The blender does not require measuring, scooping or pouring; drain or water line; or the use of an ice machine.
The company complemented its Cheese Sauce 2.0 small-footprint dispenser with a vertical merchandiser for bagged tortilla chips to improve c-stores' self-serve nacho offering.
This supplier's GoBitos dried chickpea snacks capitalize on the increased consumer demand for new bold flavors along with the growing interest in better-for-you snacks. Varieties range from Aged White Cheddar, to Sweet & Hot Thai Chili, to "Hot Hot Hot" Ghost Pepper.
Each package includes an egg's worth of protein and an apple's worth of fiber, according to a company representative.
PERFECT FRY CO.
C-store employees who are new to the foodservice world should easily be able to operate the ventless fryers from Perfect Fry, which sit on the countertop and function nearly as simply as "a frying vending machine."
Along with their small size, the units cater to small-footprint locations because they do not require a hood. Additionally, the lack of venting combined with the three-part filter means that there is no lingering odor of oil or grease.
C-store operators who aren't ready to invest in new equipment purchases, particularly small operators, can still add smoothies to their menu with SmoothiePro, which provides pre-blended smoothie mixes in sealed bags. The mix must be served fresh due to the two-day shelf life, but employees can cup the smoothies they need and store the rest rather than blend smoothies one at a time.
The smoothie mix comes in mixed berry and tropical flavors and includes Yoplait stickers for blank plastic cups to take advantage of the brand recognition.