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Beverage Sales Going Cold? Wake Up and Smell the Coffee

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Earlier this month, we announced the gas station and c-store chains that ranked highest in categories as voted on by the GasBuddy community.

Let’s take a closer look at just one of those categories—coffee.

According to a February article by Convenience Store Decisions, more than half (56%) of Americans who have visited a c-store in the past three months feel that the stores make coffee drinks as good as coffeehouses. Forty-two percent responded that they’ve purchased hot brewed coffee or specialty drinks in the past three months, making them second to only fountain drinks in the made-to-order or fresh food and beverage categories.

C-store coffee sales are heating up, and it’s easy to see why. Here are just a few things GasBuddy’s top five in the coffee category are doing to help grow share of wallet.

Coffee-Centric Promotions: During the month of March, our caffeine champions Wawa are treating members of its rewards program to “Free Coffee Fridays” if they have downloaded the app and added a gift card. Runner-up KwikTrip allows customers to earn points for food and beverage purchases when they use their Kwik Bucks card to buy fuel. Loyalty is key! A recent survey by marketing intelligence agency Mintel found that 36% of c-store coffee consumers would like to see loyalty programs where they shop.

A Focus on Quality AND Quantity:
Some retailers have been brewing big coffee sales by investing in high-quality espresso machines, temperature-controlled urns and globally-sourced beans. From Wawa’s eight hot coffee flavors and varieties to third-place winner QuikTrip’s latte, mocha and Americano options, c-store coffee offerings are increasingly mirroring shops for which coffee is their primary business. Upping your coffee quality and variety may help you land more of the largest demographic—Millennials—into your store. Mintel discovered that Millennials, unlike their parents, are more focused on the coffee experience than on price and enjoy sweeter coffee options as a treat any time of day.

Beyond the Burned Brew on a Hot Plate: Many c-stores still recognize the convenience and speed of the self-serve model, but a trend toward made-to-order drinks are attracting more foot traffic. For one, our number-five ranked Sheetz’s in-store coffee experience includes a touchscreen menu and orders prepared on the spot. For customers wanting to experience Sheetz coffee on lazy weekends, they can buy a bag of the chain’s coffee to brew at home.

Building your brand’s reputation for great coffee is a win-win—consumers only need to make one stop for both kinds of morning fuel and retailers get customers from the pumps to the store, where they just might pick up other food items to go with that steaming hot cup of java.