As the industry continues to watch the rise of better-for-you products, it seems certain consumers also are searching for just-for-me products. Whether it’s a coffee beverage made with personally preferred ingredients or choosing a brand that embodies one’s personality, the customization trend has begun to permeate the industry.

At this year’s National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) Show in Chicago, Oct. 1-4, Kraft Foods launched the first expansion of its Mio liquid beverage mix line with Mio Energy. Scheduled to be available in convenience stores in the coming months, Mio Energy is a liquid water enhancer available in Black Cherry and Thunder Punch varieties that contains caffeine and vitamins B3, B6 and B12. A preview postcard for the launch specifically highlighted that “millennial consumers demand products they can customize and personalize.”

At the show’s “What’s Hot in Coffee” session, panelists discussed the importance of variety in making a convenience store a beverage destination. Jennie Jones, vice president of marketing and communications for S&D Coffee, recommended that convenience store operators re-envision their hot beverage selection and think about improving coffee quality, adding single-origin coffees, offering a variety of condiments, redefining cup sizes, and to consider the addition of hot teas and hot chocolates as ways to cater to more customers.

One session attendee inquired as to how convenience stores can get younger consumers who prefer energy drinks to switch to coffee selections. Jones and her fellow panelists Michael McLaughlin, product development manager for Wawa, and Ric Martin, vice president of chain account development for Bunn North America, recommended sampling coffee varieties or increasing condiment offerings to encourage trial among younger consumers.

The NACS Show floor was full of reasons why energy drink fans might not be ready to make the shift, namely the sheer number of energy options. In addition to category leaders Red Bull, Monster Energy and 5-Hour Energy, numerous beverage-makers displayed energized formulas designed for specific audiences. Pure Growth Partners attracted a crowd with the Oct. 3 appearance of hip-hop artist Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, who is a part-owner in the charitable energy shot brand. Solvi Brands also was on hand with its Strut & Rut Energy Shots that are packaged in a shotgun shell-type bottle to specifically appeal to the hunting community. LXR Biotech featured its Perfectly Petite brand, which is described as a premium women’s energy shot with calorie-burning ingredients designed to be “a little black dress’ best friend forever.”

The Coca-Cola Co. tempted NACS Show attendees with its Freestyle fountain dispenser that offers 125 combinations of flavors from its portfolio of brands and is currently being tested in convenience stores. Making its first appearance at the NACS Show, The Coca-Cola Co. said that the two Freestyle machines at its booth attracted more people on Oct. 2 than “Jersey Shore” cast member Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, who made an appearance at a separate NACS booth that day.


Jennifer Zegler