Cheesy Curls Snack Hitting Shelves This Fall
Southern Recipe, produced by Rudolph Foods, is launching Cheesy Jalapeño Curls. Southern Recipe is adding this product to its family of snack selections as a way to expand choices for consumers who are looking for convenient snacks with distinct flavor, according to a news release.
This is an extension to the Southern Recipe family of snacks including pork rinds, cajun popcorn and meat sticks. Each bag is oven baked with real cheese. The 2-oz. packages will hit stores in early fall.
“Your taste buds will be delighted with our blend of cheese with a hint of jalapeño for a truly mouthing watering snack,” says Mark Singleton, VP of marketing and sales for Southern Recipe. “This is a great snack for so many occasions: whether you’re watching the game with friends, or relaxing on your back porch, it is sure to satisfy.”
The Cheesy Jalapeño Curls are a new snack alternative to Southern Recipe’s traditional pork rind and cracklin offerings, the news release says. It will be available on convenience store shelves in the South and Southeast for an SRP of $1.09.
NACS Show Again Ranked Among Country’s Top Buying Shows
The NACS Show was rated in the top 10 among U.S. trade shows in three of the four key categories used by exhibitors to measure audience quality, according to a national survey of the country’s biggest trade shows conducted by Exhibit Surveys Inc. The 2012 survey results were tabulated from more than 30 of the top annual U.S. trade shows and released in April.
Retailer registration and housing is now open for the 2013 NACS Show, a comprehensive event for convenience and fuel retailing professionals. This year’s NACS Show will be held Oct. 12-15 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.
The 2012 NACS Show ranked fourth in the country in terms of total buying plans—the percentage of attendees who anticipate buying within 12 months of a show. NACS’ score of 63 percent was higher than the all-show average of 49 percent.
The NACS Show ranked sixth in the country for net buying influence, also known as “buying power,” which calculates the percentage of attendees who have the power to make or recommend final purchasing decisions. The NACS Show’s score of 92 percent was higher than the all-show average of 84 percent.
In addition, the NACS Show ranked eighth for the amount of hours each attendee spends visiting exhibitions. NACS Show attendees averaged 10.4 hours per person on the expo floor, a 0.5-hour increase over 2011, and higher than the all-show average of 9.1 hours.
Exhibit Surveys defines net buying influence as “the ability to recommend, specify or purchase products or services; it defines total buying plans as “the percentage of visitors planning to buy one or more products or services seen at a show within the following 12 months,” calling it “a strong indicator of what people purchase.”
“The NACS Show’s top-tier ranking over the past decade confirms what our industry has long known: The NACS Show is where retailers and suppliers get together to do business,” said NACS Vice Chairman of Convention Pat Lewis, a partner at Twin Falls, Idaho-based Oasis Stop ’N Go. “Savvy retailers know that the new ideas and products that they find at the NACS Show help them continually thrive and stay ahead of the competition, and the 2013 NACS Show will be no exception.”
At the 2012 NACS Show, a record number of buyers fueled a 7.2 percent surge in attendance, which hit 24,056—the second-highest total ever. The number of buyers (retailers, wholesalers and distributors) was up 17.1 percent to reach 9,764. There were a record 8,057 NACS buyer registrants at the 2012 NACS Show—nearly 3 percent more than the previous record set in 2004. PEI buyer registration was 1,707, the third-highest total ever. Attendees came from a record 65 countries and international attendance was a record 2,482 delegates.
The excitement from the 2012 NACS Show has carried over to 2013, organizers report. Exhibition space for the NACS Show is nearly sold out, which is unprecedented so far in advance of the event.
The 2013 NACS Show will feature a 392,000-net-s.f. exposition with 1,050 exhibiting companies—of which 150-plus are new to the NACS Show. In addition, the show will feature three days of general sessions and 53 educational sessions. The educational sessions in 2012 drew a cumulative 9,889 attendees, averaging nearly 190 attendees per session, the most ever recorded. Reflecting the growing international scope of the NACS Show, the general sessions will be once again translated into Portuguese, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese, and select educational sessions will be translated into Portuguese and Spanish.
NACS has a variety of marketing products and programs for exhibitors that are designed to help exhibitors target the buying power of top retailers, intensify market penetration, launch a new product, strengthen and differentiate their brands and generate traffic to their booths.
Full registration, which includes admission to the general sessions, educational sessions, expo and the welcome reception, is $295 for NACS retailer members and $495 for other retailer attendees. One-day registration also is available ($195 per day for NACS retailer members and $295 per day for other retailers). These “super-saver” rates are available until July 31. Other rates apply for non-exhibiting manufacturers, service providers, brokers and consultants. Exhibitor registration also is now now open. NACS Show attendees can register for the event and secure housing here.
In addition to online registration, the NACS Show website features the latest information about exhibitors, speakers, workshops and networking events.
There Must Be A Better Way To Stock
by Alison Shea/Special to The Shelby Report
I spend a lot of time at the grocery store. I would love to say I’m one of those shoppers who plans my family’s meals for the coming week and buys everything we need in one fell swoop. But the reality is that I shop for groceries at least four times a week. And more often than not, I’m fighting the clock—racing to get home. I usually know what items I want and what aisles they are in, and I’m not a fan of anything that slows me down.
So you can imagine my dismay when I come across one of those aisles that are more like obstacle courses. I may be a bit biased because my work is about minimizing this sort of thing, but anyone who shops for groceries knows what I mean. I’m talking about navigating around stocking clerks, cumbersome dollies, and stacks of boxes. Just recently I was in my neighborhood store when I had to pull my cart over at the top of the aisle and wait for another shopper to make her way through, since there was no way we could pass side by side. There was a cart filled with discarded cardboard, another holding a tote filled with dog treats, and a giant, six-wheeled u-boat filled with cases and bags of dog food. In the midst of it all was a store clerk, precariously balancing a case of Alpo while trying to refill an upper shelf.
It was finally my turn to enter the aisle. As I grabbed my pooch’s favorite biscuits, I said, “Looks like you’re having a busy day.”
“This is nothing,” was the clerk’s response. “On a really busy day I could be here unloading 50 cases or more at a time.”
Holy Moses, that’s a lot of balancing! This guy had his foot up on a lower shelf to balance the case on his knee. He was attempting to hold the case steady with one hand and stock cans with the other.
I remember thinking there has to be a better way. When a process is clearly inconvenient for the customer and uncomfortable for the clerk, shouldn’t that process be re-evaluated?
But that’s only two-thirds of the story. In addition to the important matters of shopper inconvenience and worker discomfort, there’s the issue of productivity. The third stakeholder is the store’s owner/manager, who should be concerned about all of the above.
A very big deal
To cope with the Great Recession, we’re all trying to be more efficient. Sometimes in the retail industry, the time and money we save by changing our tools and practices seems hardly worth it. Say you could save a stocking clerk eight minutes a day; is that a big deal? Don’t answer yet.
Let’s think it through. You wouldn’t want that stocking clerk coming to work eight minutes late every day, because you know that would add up. If you have 10 stocking clerks and you could save each of them 8 minutes a day, that’s 80 minutes a day, which really adds up.
For stocking, significant gains usually start small. You might start with saving a few seconds per case, or decreasing the number of back injuries per year. Things that are barely measurable typically don’t seem substantial if taken on a one-by-one basis. Saving 30 feet or five seconds of walking, for instance, seems insignificant, until you’re doing it 200 times a day.
Think back to improvements that seem routine today but went through growing pains years ago, as all new ideas do. Barcodes and self-checkout stations, for example, have saved tremendous amounts of time and labor and have produced amazing returns on investment, yet we take them for granted now.
So, is it a big deal if you increase one stocking clerk’s production rate and reduce his/her muscle fatigue? Maybe not. But if you increase the production rate of all your stockers, making your whole operation faster, easier and safer, it becomes a very big deal.
Training and tools
Training your employees so that safe and productive stocking practices become habitual is imperative to keeping injuries and spills minimized and goods (especially foods) rotated so that newest containers are at the back of the shelf. Let’s face it: Stocking isn’t rocket science. It is simply a matter of putting that jar of sauce or can of beans on a shelf, right? As simple as this sounds, there are right ways and wrong ways of doing it.
Training can be daunting. In addition to taking up valuable time on the part of trainer and trainee, in some businesses it entails red tape. By the way, the more discomfort your employees have to endure, the higher your turnover rate. The higher your turnover rate, the more time you have to spend hiring and training new employees. (I don’t need to say time is money, do I?)
Now, what sort of training are you providing for your stockers, and what tools are you giving them to do the job? Yes, this is what I’ve been leading up to. At the risk of sounding too much like I’m in sales, which I am, I’ll try not to use brand names, but there is a new, ergonomic tool on the market. If you are looking to improve efficiency, keep an eye out for a compact cart that keeps cases at the right height, allowing personnel to price and stock goods with two hands, thus maximizing productivity. Better yet, it also minimizes employee injuries and aisle congestion.
At most stores today, the stocker repeatedly lugs heavy cases down the aisle, from a u-boat to a shelf. Or, if allowed, s/he might use a shopping cart to move multiple cases. The common theme is that the employee has to lean down, pick up these cases, and stock their contents on the appropriate shelves. Even with the shopping cart, it’s a bending and reaching effort and, too often, a balancing act.
Ergonomic and elegantly simple
In contrast, the new and elegantly simple stocking cart I’m selling holds case-packed goods at any shelf height and glides down aisles (no power required) to make pricing and stocking faster, safer and easier in supermarkets, pharmacies, convenience stores and other retail outlets. And its compact “footprint” makes stocking during business hours possible without blocking aisles or otherwise inconveniencing shoppers.
The height of the unit’s platform is easily adjusted by any employee. Once the platform is raised or lowered to the most convenient height, the need to bend and stretch is greatly reduced. It can still be used with u-boats or other dollies, but it eliminates the need to carry heavy loads up and down aisles. The platform has handgrips on all four sides for easy maneuverability on smoothly rolling casters. Don’t underestimate the adjustable-height feature. Keeping the case goods at a comfortable level means far less lifting, bending and twisting, and there is no longer a need to balance a case on a knee, a hand or a shelf edge. When stocking becomes less hazardous, injury rates and worker-compensation claims drop. It follows that there is also less droppage/breakage, since users have both hands free.
Alright, here I have to mention the name of my employer’s cart, which is the Stock & Roll. Now I can quote an independent study conducted on three different ergonomic devices for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) by The Ergonomics Center of North Carolina. The study concluded that Stock & Roll carts showed “a reduction in ergonomic risk level,” “a reduction in reported discomfort,” “positive usability feedback by experienced stock clerks” and “a substantial improvement in stocking productivity.” This study and others have shown that the units typically pay for themselves with productivity increases in less than six months (sooner if reduced workers-compensation costs are considered).
OK, class, what have we learned? Productivity, customer convenience and worker safety should be a retailer’s prime concerns. Savings that start small can end big. Though essentially simple, the art of stocking shelves can nevertheless benefit from innovation. An innovative cart makes stocking faster, easier and safer. I’ve got to hit the supermarket again on my way home tonight—wish me luck!
Alison Shea is market development manager for Retail Handling Solutions, 866-593-3053 (toll-free), www.retailhandlingsolutions.com, email@example.com.
Jack Link’s Launches Squatch Brand
Jack Link’s, the No. 1 U.S. meat snack brand, is introducing the Squatch brand, a snack stick line geared toward teens and young adults.
“Squatch is the first brand Jack Link’s has tested directly with Millennial consumers,” said Jeff LeFever, VP of marketing at Jack Link’s. “With this unique, in-depth perspective and the new brand’s strong connection to Jack Link’s popular and award-winning ‘Messin’ With Sasquatch’ advertising campaign, we believe Squatch is poised to become a major competitor in the meat stick segment.”
Squatch sticks are available in 1-oz. packages and come in two flavors: Original and Hot. Squatch is now available at convenience stores and other retailers nationwide at a suggested retail price of $1.29.
Squatch in-store merchandising offers retailers a versatile array of display options, according to a news release. The brand’s product displays were produced to provide the most efficient use of store space and to engage and build excitement among consumers at the point of sale.
Viewing the new brand as one with potential for significant growth, Jack Link’s plans to expand Squatch product offerings and merchandising displays later this year.
“We couldn’t be more excited for consumers everywhere to start rockin’ the Squatch,” said LeFever. “The product’s premium quality sets it apart from other meat sticks on the market, while its intense, bold flavor hits the taste buds with an unexpected, spicy kick. Squatch is for the adventurous, daring snacker. It’s definitely a game changer when it comes to the meat stick segment.”
Atlas Oil To Open Earth Market C-Store On Earth Day
Atlas Oil will launch its all new convenience store concept called Earth Market on Earth Day, April 22, with a grand opening at 16 E. Lincoln Hwy. in Frankfort, Ill.
The new store format has a unique, branded design that carries through the store and is represented in its branding, signage and even specialty food product labels. Earth Market also has introduced its own coffee brand, Eco-Earth Coffee, with gourmet coffee bar extras for customizing beverages.
Five Earth Market stores are now open in the Chicago area. They are located in Frankfort, Mokena, Hickory Hills, Alsip and Oswego. Each store features a clean layout that includes a café style area with oversized, lime green leather chairs, TVs, a fireplace and wireless internet access.
Pilot Flying J Raid Reportedly Stems From Unpaid Rebates
An FBI raid of the Pilot Flying J headquarter offices in Knoxville, Tenn., on Monday reportedly resulted from an issue regarding unpaid customer rebates to some truck lines.
CEO Jimmy Haslam held a press conference Tuesday and said the raid stemmed from what appears to be a “very insignificant number of customers and the application of rebates—that the rebates owed to the customers were not paid.”
“We of course disagree with that,” said Haslam, adding that “we were obviously shocked by the events of (Monday).”
Haslam declined to give a specific number of customers allegedly impacted but said it was an “extremely low percentage, a low number.”
Haslam explained the company’s rebate system like this: if a trucking company buys 50,000 gallons of gas from Pilot Flying J, it would receive so much of a rebate from the business. If it buys 100,000 gallons, it would receive another amount.
Haslam, who is the brother of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and owner of the Cleveland Browns, said the company is cooperating “100 percent” in what he confirmed is a criminal investigation.
The raid by the FBI and IRS Monday was “professional,” Haslam added.
As for why the IRS is involved, Haslam said he isn’t sure but that his company does not believe “it’s related to any tax implication, we feel very confident it does not.”
Haslam revealed that several members of the company’s sales team were subpoenaed in the investigation. No arrests have been made.
All Pilot Flying J locations remain open for business and Haslam thanked Flying J’s trucking company customers. He said their support has been “overwhelming.”
Haslam also noted that, while he doesn’t know how long the investigation will go on, the company is preparing for the long haul.
Pilot Flying J is the largest operator of travel centers in North America.
Go here to view the press conference in its entirety.
Convenience Store Sales Topped $700B In 2012
The convenience store industry had record sales of $700.3 billion in 2012, with in-store sales increasing 2.2 percent to reach a record $199.3 billion and motor fuels sales increasing 2.9 percent to a record $501.0 billion, according to figures released today by NACS. The industry’s 2012 numbers were announced at the NACS State of the Industry Summit, a two-day conference that reviews and analyzes the industry’s key economic indicators.
The industry’s overall sales reflected real growth per store, with sales outpacing the 0.7-percent increase in convenience stores in 2012, according to the NACS/Nielsen Convenience Industry Store Count released in January 2012.
In-store sales growth was driven by double-digit sales gains in several subcategories: alternative snacks, which include meat snacks and health, energy and protein bars (12.2 percent), liquor, a relatively small subcategory (11.6 percent), cold dispensed beverages (11.3 percent) and sweet snacks (10.3 percent).
Beyond sales, convenience stores are an important part of the economy, according to a NACS news release. They employed 1.84 million people and generated $171 billion in federal, state and local taxes in 2012. Overall, convenience stores sales represent 4.5 percent—or one out of every $22—of the entire $15.68 trillion U.S. gross domestic product.
“These numbers demonstrate that Americans turn to us for their daily needs,” said NACS Chairman Dave Carpenter, president and CEO of J.D. Carpenter Companies Inc. “We are a vital part of consumers’ daily lives and the U.S. economy. We also continue to innovate and deliver on our promise of providing fast, one-stop shopping to consumers, whether they are on the road or in their communities.”
Convenience store pre-tax profits reached a record $7.2 billion in 2012, but taken as a percent of total sales, profits only moved from 1.027 percent to 1.028 percent of total sales.
Motor fuels continued to drive sales dollars, but in-store sales drove profit dollars. Overall, 71.5 percent of total sales were motor fuels, but motor fuels only accounted for 35.0 percent of profit dollars. Motor fuels gross margins decreased from 18.2 cents to 17.8 cents per gallon before expenses, and also dipped on a percentage basis, falling from 5.23 percent to 4.94 percent, the lowest that they have been on a percentage basis in decades.
While sales and profits were strong, there are concerns for the convenience retailing industry. Total credit and debit card fees hit a record $11.2 billion and surpassed overall convenience store industry profits for the seventh straight year. Overall, card fees increased 1.5 percent, a much slower pace than the double-digit increases that were routine the past decade. Passage and implementation of new debit card swipe fees limits played a significant role in reducing escalating card fees. However, card fees still were significant. Just looking at motor fuels sales, credit and debit card fees added 5.1 cents to every gallon of gasoline sold at convenience stores in 2012. Beyond card fees, several other expense lines saw increase, led by health insurance costs, which rose 6.3 percent.
The industry’s bifurcation also continues, with a considerable difference between top quartile and bottom quartile performers. Top quartile performers had hot dispensed profits that were 4.4 times greater than those of the bottom quartile, prepared food profits 2.4 times greater than the bottom quartile, cold dispensed profits 2.3 times greater than the bottom quartile and packaged beverage sales that were 2.3 times greater than the bottom quartile.
Of greater concern to all retailers, there was a major difference in sales and profits by quarter. First quarter sales and profits were considerably better than those of any other quarter, while fourth quarter sales and profits lagged behind the other quarters. Weather likely was a major factor in the sales and profits variations, the release says. The first quarter of 2012 was unusually warm and dry, which is conductive to growing on-the-go sales, while the fourth quarter had much poorer weather and significant storms in densely populated areas, most notably Hurricane Sandy.
Here’s how in-store sales were broken down in 2012:
• Tobacco (cigarettes and OTP): 40.7 percent of in-store sales;
• Foodservice (prepared and commissary food; hot, cold and dispensed beverages): 15.8 percent;
• Packaged beverages (soda, alternative beverages, sports drinks, juices, water, teas, etc.): 14.7 percent;
• Center of the store (candy; sweet, salty and alternative snacks): 10.4 percent;
• Beer: 7.6 percent; and
• Other: 10.8 percent.
Meanwhile, foodservice was the category that drove profits, accounting for 27.1 percent of gross profit dollars. While tobacco products constituted 40.7 percent of in-store revenue dollars, they accounted for only 21.0 percent of gross margin dollars. Packaged beverages were third, accounting for 18.8 percent of gross profit dollars.
Gattsek Joins NACS As Data Services Manager
Gwen Gattsek has joined NACS as its full-time data services manager.
Previoulsy, Gattsek served as temporary help to NACS’ marketing department since July 2012, helping enhance the association’s data management capabilities, especially related to e-mail communications to members, a news release says. She also worked as a consultant to NACS in 2009 and 2010, supervising the data management of NACS’ record-setting petition drives against swipe fees.
Additionally, Gattsek has experience as a business owner, serving as a manager and later as owner of The Flower Market, a retail floral business serving a number of national accounts. More recently, she was building manager and fresh flower buyer for Middle Atlantic Wholesale Florist.
Gattsek earned a bachelor of arts degree in biology with a concentration in psychology from the University of Virginia. She is a resident of Alexandria.
Founded in 1961 as the National Association of Convenience Stores, NACS is the international association for convenience and fuel retailing. The U.S. convenience store industry, with more than 149,000 stores across the country, posted $681 billion in total sales in 2011, of which $486 billion were motor fuels sales. NACS has 2,200 retail and 1,600 supplier member companies that do business in nearly 50 countries.