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    Couche-Tard Tapping Into European Influence

    Statoil acquisition impacting coffee, fresh food companywide.

    LAVAL, Quebec — Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. has begun serving up its private-label European coffee program in Canada.

    The Quebec-based convenience store chain added its Simply Great Coffee brand this summer in Sherbrooke, Quebec, and will add 20 more locations in two different Canada test markets in the coming months, according to Canadian Business.

    Details of the Canadian coffee program, including its name and the location of the test market sites in Quebec and elsewhere, were not disclosed.

    The rollout of the Simply Great Coffee program at 20 percent of its locations in Europe boosted coffee sales in those stores by more than 10 percent, Couche-Tard CEO Brian Hannasch said last week during the company's second-quarter earnings call.

    "We are very pleased with the results of the second quarter, which are consistent with our previous quarters' excellent performance. We continue to innovate in our stores, improving our offer. A current example is the rollout of our Simply Great Coffee program in Europe, which is generating strong results," he said. "This is the type of innovation, along with the hard work of our teams, that allow us quarter after quarter to present great organic growth in our merchandise and services sales."

    The coffee move comes as Couche-Tard looks to boost its fresh food offering throughout North America. 

    According to the news outlet, Couche-Tard has been trying to expand its fresh food offer across North America after examining the success of such offerings at the Statoil Fuel & Retail locations it acquired in Europe.

    The company now delivers bakery products and sandwiches to about 400 stores in five pilot markets in Canada and the United States. The retailer also prepares food such as chicken, pizza and hamburgers at some 200 locations.

    Hannasch said he's pleased with the results, particularly in the U.S., but is working to better manage spoilage and reduce logistics costs.

    "Canada is still in more pilot mode. We don't think we've got the right recipe yet here in Canada, but there's a lot of work being done to make that happen," he said.

    In addition, Couche-Tard reported that it's launched a program in Europe called Statoil Extra, in which customers who sign up receive notifications on their cell phones of discounts on items such as coffee and car washes. The program, developed in collaboration with Montreal IT company CGI Group, has helped to drive repeat traffic and the company said it may be expanded to North America, Canadian Business reported.

    Couche-Tard Chief Financial Officer Raymond Pare said the company already offers loyalty programs in North America with grocery stores and other partners, but using its own mobile system is very powerful and easier to adapt various offers.

    "We're at the stage where we did roll out this tool in Europe and we will evaluate the performance, but we always had in mind loyalty wherever we are," Pare said.

    Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. operates 6,221 convenience stores throughout North America, including 4,724 stores with road transportation fuel dispensing. The retailer also operates 2,263 European stores across Scandinavia, Poland, the Baltics and Russia.

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