On Sriracha, Seasonals and Seven-Layer Dip

Trend-spotting at the 2013 NACS Show

By  Abbie Westra, Editor-in-Chief, Convenience Store Products

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Another NACS Show has come and gone, leaving in its wake a multitude of new products that will flourish or falter in the next year. The annual crop serves as a look at industry trends and a reminder of the amazing amount of innovation, evolution and sheer guts this industry executes to stay relevant, competitive and downright interesting.

What follows are some of the product trends that caught my eye treading the aisles in Atlanta.

Flavor building. It’s rare to find a one-note candy or snack these days. Ferrero USA showed off Summer Ice Pop flavored Tic Tacs, f’real announced its 2014 LTOs will be Pumpkin Cheesecake and S’mores, and Jack Link’s sampled its new burrito-flavored jerky. Mars continues to see success with its 7 Layer Dip Combos, and Skittles announced a new Desserts flavor set featuring Strawberry Milkshake, Key Lime Pie and Blueberry Tart.

Go for the bold. Alongside that burrito jerky is a new sriracha variety, and Jack Link’s wasn’t the only company capitalizing on the slow-burning sriracha trend. Brakebush showed off boneless sriracha chicken bites, and Heinz had a sriracha wing dip at its booth.

CPG “drafting.” A number of larger manufacturers are bringing products lines that have been successful in grocery stores to the convenience space, hoping to “draft” off that strong consumer acceptance in a different need state. The WhiteWave Foods Co. had an International Delight-branded dispensed iced coffee on display, capitalizing on its popular iced-coffee product launched in the grocery dairy aisle.

Foodservice evolves.  In similar silo-busting news, an increasing number of traditional restaurant suppliers have been showing up at the show. General Mills brought more items from its foodservice business to Atlanta including Pillsbury cinnamon rolls and Yoplait bulk yogurt—packed in pastry bags for easy parfait prep.

Equipment innovations. In another sign of the evolution of c-store foodservice, Manitowoc brought its sophisticated Convotherm combi ovens and Frymaster open-well fryers to the show for the first time. Ovention’s Matchbox—the new dual-surface oven that launched at last year’s show and recently was sold to Hatco—was at the show with a larger presence.

Mobile growth. The opportunity for mobile—be it for payment, marketing or operations—is just barely realized by our industry. As suppliers and services evolve and consumer habits shift, mobile will continue to change the way you do business.

Among the miscellaneous trends were the countless jerky products from suppliers familiar and new, and a similar bounty of bars from the gluten-free to the protein-laden. Suppliers continue to cast a net to capture female shoppers with everything from more feminine e-cigs to lower-sugar, spill-proof kids’ juices. Beverage makers spent their R&D bucks on sparkling waters, and Greek yogurt is being blended into just about everything. Despite the growth in ethnic-food trends, suppliers are still focusing on comfort foods. Confectioners, meanwhile, are placing a stronger emphasis on seasonal-candy sales with pack sizes specific to the channel and marketing calendars that go a year out. And, of course, e-cigs. There were a few of those.

I am eager to see what gains traction in the months to come. Some products will surely fall by the wayside, while others will both follow and drive consumer habits—and your business—in the year to come.        

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