Supplier Spotlights: Acumera, GasBuddy, Koupon Media & NCR
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:
22ND CENTURY GROUP
22nd Century Group Inc., a plant biotechnology company focused on tobacco harm reduction and very low nicotine tobacco, submitted a Modified Risk Tobacco Product (MRTP) application with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the company's very low nicotine (VLN) content cigarettes.
The application joins 22nd Century's previously filed premarket tobacco application (PMTA). Together, the applications seek the FDA's authorization to commercialize the company's VLN cigarettes and to advertise that the VLN cigarettes contain 95 percent less nicotine as compared to the 100 leading cigarette brands in the United States.
"22nd Century's proprietary VLN cigarettes have at least 95 percent less nicotine than each of the 100 leading cigarette brands in the United States. We concur with former FDA Commissioner Dr. David Kessler: Cigarettes with non-addictive levels of nicotine represent 'the ultimate harm reduction strategy,'" said Henry Sicignano III, president and CEO of 22nd Century Group. "We believe that the public health implications of very low nicotine content cigarettes are enormous; 22nd Century is tremendously excited about introducing our proprietary VLN cigarettes into the U.S. market."
Acumera, a managed security services provider to retailers and restaurants, received certification by Verifone as a managed network service provider to support Verifone's Commander point of sale system.
Acumera's advanced security device and AcuLink Commander Remote Access were successfully tested and launched at six Jacksons Food Stores locations across Idaho to replace the Verifone Enhanced Zone Router. Acumera's MNSP solution provides PCI-compliant remote access between the Verifone Commander POS systems and Verifone's internal support network.
As part of the certification process, Acumera's security device and AcuLink Commander Remote Access Service were tested in the Verifone quality assurance lab,and at Jackson's live pilot sites. The certification process consists of a set of rigorous security and functionality requirements to ensure smooth and scalable operation of the Verifone Commander at customer sites, the company said.
"When Verifone support connects to the customer's Commander POS, they use AcuLink Commander remote access," said Dirk Heinen, CEO of Acumera. "The connection gives Verifone support automated controls to eliminate persistent connections between the POS and the remote support team. This functionality is essential for remaining PCI compliant during remote support connections."
GasBuddy is teaming up with the ParkWhiz Arrive Network to offer drivers more ways to save money and make fueling and parking more convenient within a single interface.
GasBuddy users can now find, book and pay for parking at thousands of lots and garages nationwide within the GasBuddy app, as well as earn GasBack rebates in the form of free gasoline when they use the service.
"GasBuddy is about providing drivers with the biggest everyday savings on gas anywhere, even when you're looking for a parking spot," said Michael DiLorenzo, chief marketing officer at GasBuddy. "By partnering with ParkWhiz, we are widening opportunities for our users to live their lives and get free gas when they do."
The partnership also allows the companies to build on their respective APIs to power a single parking and fuel solution that automakers, fleets, navigation and other mobility partners can tap into, GasBuddy said. Users will have access to the ParkWhiz Arrive Network, which enables drivers, fleets and connected vehicles to reserve a space in advance or by driving up and gaining friction-free access to thousands of participating parking lots and garages without pulling a ticket or taking out a credit card.
Koupon Media and ZipLine, provider of payment-powered loyalty, are partnering to bring a combined rewards and payment solution to convenience retailers. The partnership creates the first fully integrated mobile loyalty experience featuring consumer packaged goods (CPG)-funded offers, rewards and payment in a single app, according to Koupon.
ZipLine's mobile platform features a frictionless check-out experience, integrated with smart rewards that target specific consumer preferences. Through a direct integration with Koupon Media, fully funded CPG offers from top national and regional brands will be available to consumers. Offers will be distributed directly to consumers through retailers' own mobile apps.
"Providing convenience retailers with easy access to high-value offers from consumers' favorite national brands is very powerful. Our partnership creates a very advanced, yet simple solution to drive consumer loyalty," said Kristen Bailey, chief marketing officer at ZipLine.
Mastercard announced it is dropping its name from its iconic brand mark in select contexts. The interlocking red and yellow circles, known as the Mastercard Symbol, will stand on its own across cards using the red and yellow brand mark, acceptance marks at retail locations both in the physical and digital worlds and major sponsorship properties.
As the consumer and commerce landscape continues to evolve, the Mastercard Symbol represents Mastercard better than one word ever could, and the flexible modern design will allow it to work seamlessly across the digital landscape, according to the company.
"Reinvention in the digital age calls for modern simplicity," said Raja Rajamannar, chief marketing and communication officer at Mastercard. "And with more than 80 percent of people spontaneously recognizing the Mastercard Symbol without the word 'mastercard,' we felt ready to take this next step in our brand evolution. We are proud of our rich brand heritage and are excited to see the iconic circles standing on their own."
NCR Corp. reached a definitive agreement to acquire JetPay, a provider of end-to-end payment processing and human capital management solutions, for approximately $184 million financed with a combination of cash on hand and existing capacity under NCR's revolving credit facility. The offer has been approved by each company's board of directors.
The acquisition will enable NCR to integrate a cloud-based payments platform into its enterprise point-of-sale solutions for retail and hospitality industries, the company said. It also accelerates NCR's strategy of increasing recurring revenue growth and expanding margins by enhancing its mix of software and services.
"The acquisition of JetPay is a key, strategic initiative that will enable NCR to create a full, end-to-end integrated payments offering for its enterprise-wide POS customers," said NCR President and CEO Michael D. Hayford. "Enabling payments as part of our transactions is part of our long-term strategy to create integrated value for our clients."
NCR also acquired StopLift Checkout Vision Systems, a provider of intelligent computer vision systems, to combat theft in the retail business. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed. NCR will integrate StopLift's Artificial Intelligence capabilities that detect unusual and possibly fraudulent behavior into its retail store transformation solutions.
This acquisition will help NCR "accelerate growth in our market-leading self-checkout and store transformation solutions," Hayford said. "In addition to creating new value for our retail customers around the world, StopLift's fraud detection technology will be a key enabler of our frictionless commerce product strategy."
SANTA FE NATURAL TOBACCO CO.
More than 100 million pieces of cigarette waste have been recycled since the fall of 2012, when Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co.(SFNTC) first partnered with TerraCycle to launch a pioneering program designed to help keep cigarette litter off of streets, beaches and public places and out of landfills.
"This is a great accomplishment that testifies to the commitment of thousands of adults across the country who are helping to reduce cigarette waste," said SFNTC President Ryan Ball. "The program not only reinforces the need to dispose of cigarette waste responsibly, but also goes beyond that by actually making the waste useful."
The Cigarette Waste Recycling Program, which SFNTC worked with TerraCycle to develop, lets adult volunteers across the United States collect cigarette butts and send them to TerraCycle, where they are combined with other recyclable materials to make useful, Earth-friendly items such as lumber, furniture, containers and more.
SFNTC covers all of the costs of the program, and for every pound of cigarette waste collected, the company also donates $1 towards the Keep America Beautiful Cigarette Litter Prevention Program.
Standard Cognition, which provides AI-powered autonomous checkout solutions for brick and mortar retailers, announced that it has acquired mapping and computer vision start-up Explorer.ai.
Standard's autonomous checkout solution utilizes cameras on store ceilings to determine what is in the store, the location of customers, and which items they possess, with indoor mapping an essential component of this equation.
Explorer.ai's technology was initially developed for autonomous vehicles by a team out of Carnegie Mellon University. This same technology is used for in-store mapping, significantly compressing a process from hours to just minutes. The new technology helps Standard map larger stores, allowing the company to expand into retail verticals rapidly, the company said.
"We are thrilled to join forces with the Explorer team," said Jordan Fisher, co-founder, and CEO of Standard. "The team is highly experienced and already works well together — having them in place gives our engineering team a big edge and a running start toward applying their state-of-the-art computer vision and mapping skill sets in autonomous vehicles to retail. We believe mapping is a critical ingredient to autonomous checkout. The Explorer team has a strong record of tackling these problems together, and we're confident that this will allow us to make rapid progress at Standard."
TURNING POINT BRANDS
Turning Point Brands (TPB) formed Nu-X Ventures, a new company and wholly owned subsidiary dedicated to the development, production and sale of alternative products and acquisitions in related spaces. Nu-X Ventures will be led by TPB veteran Graham Purdy, who will serve as president.
"We are continuously looking for ways to meet the evolving preferences of our customers," stated Larry Wexler, president and CEO of TPB. "Today's announcement underscores our move into rapidly growing and emerging markets, such as the CBD industry. Nu-X Ventures will put us on the leading edge of the booming alternatives markets."
The creation of Nu-X Ventures allows TPB to leverage its expertise in traditional OTP management to alternative products, according to the company.
"Nu-X Ventures is an exciting next step in our push into the alternatives market," Purdy said. "Moving into this space brings us into a world with a wide variety of new active ingredients and a multiplicity of delivery methods. We are constantly looking for ways to innovate to meet the desires of our consumers, and Nu-X Ventures is the vehicle that will lead us into the alternatives market where we see a large market of unmet adult consumer demand."