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Three Trade Shows and Six Great Products

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I’ve been on the road a lot these past few weeks. These trips are an essential way to stay up-to-date with trends in the convenience store industry, not just through conversations with store operators, suppliers, and industry leaders, but because I gain exposure to a wide range of new and innovative products. Here’ s where I’ve been:

  • March 28th Presented at the Upper Midwest Convenience Store and Energy Convention in Saint Paul, Minnesota
  • March 30th – Spoke at Core-Mark’s New England Savings Expo in Worcester, Massachusetts.
  • March 30th  and 31st – Spent a few days at the GasBuddy offices in Boston before flying back to Des Moines, Iowa.
  • April 6th – Stopped by the Farner-Bocken Show at the Iowa State Fairgrounds.

In my travels, here are six products that stood out.

  1. Chewzees Snack Shack Dog Treats

I’ve noticed a lot of dog treats showing up for sale at convenience stores across the United States in the past year.

It makes sense. According to Chewzees, 62% of American households have a dog.

The products offered by Chewzees includes rib bones, pig ears, crunch bars and, my favorite, Snack Sticks.

Dog owners often share snacks with their furry companions, but the ingredients in human products are sometimes less-than-ideal for dogs’ stomachs. That’s why Snack Sticks—although marketed at pets—are both human-grade and animal-friendly. They’re produced by a human-grade manufacturer but they’re also approved by AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials). The result is a fun product that both owner and pet can snack on.

  1. Redd Bars

I’m always on the hunt for top-quality snack bars and I may have found my new favorite.

Redd Bars were created by Alden Blease. As a college student on a tight budget, he mixed together a lot of bulk, nutrient-dense ingredients from a health food store. The idea was to create an inexpensive snack that would sustain both his body and his wallet.

The idea soon attracted attention from classmates and Alden started a small business selling the bars on campus. Two years ago, he reached out to a designer and revisited the formula and packaging to create the Redd Bar—meaning Research Enhanced Design + Development.

But how does it taste?

I eagerly ate my samples over the course of the following day. There are many great snack bars are on the market right now but Redd has great mouthfeel. Instead of being hard, chewy or sticky, it’s soft and pleasant. Additionally, the Mint Chocolate version is downright delicious.

Redd Bars also contain around 35mg of natural caffeine. It’s perfect for a morning snack and it’s great for people like me who enjoy running and cycling.

  1. Homefree Mini Cookies

Consumer demand is increasing for high-quality products whether they’re healthful or indulgent.

The folks at Homefree have taken notice with their mini cookies. Despite being free of gluten, nuts, dairy, eggs, rice, GMOs, artificial ingredients, and being vegan, kosher, whole-grain and allergy-friendly, they somehow manage to make cookies that are incredibly delicious.

Lemon Burst is my favorite flavor. I took two sample packages back to the hotel and immediately devoured them.

The cookies are also B Corp Certified. I had no idea what that means so I looked it up. According to B Lab’s website:

B Corp is to business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee or USDA Organic certification is to milk.

It’s certainly interesting. If you want to learn more, check out this video.

  1. Cold Brewtus NitroBrew

I’ve never developed a taste for coffee.

Maybe it’s the bitterness, the astringent nature, the acidity or the way the taste seems to linger in my mouth for longer than I’m willing to tolerate. Whatever the reason, I usually opt for loose-leaf tea or go straight for the caffeine jolt of a sugar-free energy drink.

But I do like the NitroBrew from Cold Brewtus.

It was on tap at the Core-Mark New England Savings Expo and according to their representatives, cold brew coffee is produced in a manner similar to sun tea. Since it’s brewed without heat, it avoids the release of compounds which typically produce a bitter and acidic taste. It also enhances the flavor of the coffee beans and produces a higher-quality product.

By infusing cold brew with nitrogen, it creates—according to the product description—a “foamy, stout beer-like cascade, which elevates the natural flavors of the coffee bean.” It also smooths out the flavor as if cream had been added, even though it doesn’t contain any.

It’s delicious. I’m not ready to convert to coffee just yet but I’m willing to give it another shot.

  1. Fresh Flowers from Designers Choice

Imagine that you’re on the way home from work and want to get your significant other something nice. The grocery store is busy and a bit out of the way, so you stop at a convenience store for a bottle of wine, some dark chocolate…and fresh flowers?

It’s not a far-fetched scenario for customers in the New England area. The New Cut Flower Program from Designers Choice and Core-Mark features rose bouquets and seasonal mixed bouquets produced at farms in Chelsea, MA. According to the representative I spoke to, different bouquet arrangements will be available depending on the season.

  1. Boxed Water is Better

There’s a good chance that you’ve already seen Boxed Water at convenience stores.

I definitely have. It stands out amongst the rows of plastic bottles, and it’s just a great idea: purified water packaged in a container that’s 100% recyclable, 100% BPA free and produced with materials that are 74% renewable.

According to Food Dive:

Boxed Water is Better was the first company to market with this alternative to bottled water and it has reported steady growth since its introduction three years ago.

CEO Daryn Kuipers said the company approaches every part of the business—from design to production to shipping—through a lens of sustainability.

“We believe that packaged water should be healthy and pure, and that’s why Boxed Water is 100 percent BPA and phthalate free, free from impurities, or the things you don’t need,” he told Food Dive. “Boxed Water offers a choice that aligns with consumers looking for a better option in packaged water—a more sustainable and more thoughtful option.”

Analyst, Convenience Store and Retail Trends

Frank Beard is a passionate advocate for convenience stores who brings a wide range of experience to the GasBuddy team. His "30 Days of Gas Station Food" experiment has raised awareness of the fact that most — if not all — convenience stores have healthful options available. He's spoken at events like the 2016 NACS Show and the Partnership for a Healthier America's 2017 Summit, and he's a contributor to NACS Magazine and NACS Daily. Having visited more than 1,000 convenience stores in 24 states, Frank helps communicate the fact that convenience stores truly are the perfect pit stop.