Kum & Go Expands in Coralville, Iowa

New convenience store features Marketplace prototype, including an elevated food experience.

Kum & Go introduced its latest store location in Coralville, Iowa at 2600 Holiday Road. The 6,200+-square-foot store was built with the Marketplace store design and opened on March 30.

To encourage customers to try out those offerings, the first 99 customers to arrive on Thursday morning receive a coupon for a 99-cent whole pizza.

The centerpiece of the store is an expanded and open food preparation area that customers can see from the moment they enter. Other location features include:

Elevated food experience with Kum & Go’s “Go Fresh Market”

Open kitchen layout, clear aisles and easy-to-navigate zones

Seating inside with heated patio seating outside

Complimentary Wi-Fi and charging stations for customers

Designed for LEED-certified status, using energy efficient and sustainable design practice

Expansive beer cave and growler station with fresh beer

“This new footprint represents everything that Kum & Go strives to be for our associates and for our customers,” said Kum & Go president and CEO Kyle Krause. “This is the evolution of our brand promise and business approach. Now customers can truly experience the ‘more’ that we provide.”

The store will be open 24 hours a day.

Kum & Go operates three stores in Coralville, and 10 in the Iowa City area. Future locations of this new layout are planned for 2017 in Colorado, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

 

 

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NRF Applauds Committee Approval of Secretary of Labor

Calls the move a step toward restoring ‘fairness and balance’ at Department of Labor.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) welcomed the committee approval of Alexander Acosta as secretary of labor and said quick confirmation by the full Senate would help bring back balance at an agency where “ideological whims” have blocked job creation.

“The sooner we have a new labor secretary in office the sooner employers and employees can see relief from the partisan politics of the past administration that held back job creation,” NRF Senior Vice President for Government Relations David French said. “Alexander Acosta will be a pragmatic leader who will put economic reality ahead of ideological whims and restore fairness and balance to the Labor Department. His combination of experience in both public service and the private sector gives him the real-world knowledge of what it takes to protect workers without undermining efforts to grow the economy by putting more Americans to work.”

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted to approve Acosta as secretary of labor, setting the stage for a final vote by the full Senate. NRF sent a letter to the committee earlier this month supporting the nomination and saying labor policies under the Obama administration created “immense uncertainty” for employers on issues such as overtime expansion and joint employer status between companies and subcontractors or franchisees.

 

 

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Drive Foot Traffic to Store Locations

New “Store Traffic Guarantee” for the Retale mobile app helps retailers meet performance parameters.

Retale, a technology company that develops mobile-first shopping experiences, has launched the “Retale Store Traffic Guarantee.”

Now available for its retail partners, its Store Traffic Guarantee is specifically for the Retale mobile app, the company‘s flagship location-based shopping service. Today, 5,200 retailers share localized ads and coupons through the app, driving millions of shoppers to stores nearby.

With today’s announcement, Retale brings to market a first-of-its-kind, store traffic guarantee from a mobile developer. Retale commits that it will drive foot traffic to retailer store locations during a campaign period. If the threshold for in-store foot traffic is not met, Retale will offer a guarantee to meet campaign performance parameters.

To ensure verification of the Retale Store Traffic Guarantee, the company is partnering with third-party attribution provider, Placed, to measure campaign success. Placed is the market share leader in location driven insights and ad-to-store attribution, and the only solution currently in market that is independent of media. With this partnership, Placed will use its direct measurement capabilities against 60 billion first party locations to connect Retale’s in-app campaign exposure to real-world behavior. This will verify the impact of localized ads and coupons on in-store visits.

“Across the industry, we are seeing growing demand among advertisers for greater transparency and accountability from their media partners,” said Nels Stromborg, executive vice president of Retale. “In-store traffic is one of the top KPIs that retailers and brands look to when measuring the success of a platform and their media choices. We believe that our partners are right to demand media visibility and accountability, which drives core business metrics. We are putting our money where our mouth is by guaranteeing that we will deliver the value our customers deserve and expect, all validated through the market leader in attribution, Placed.”

Retale’s customer roster features the world’s top retailers– including JC Penney, Target, Rite Aid, Macy’s, Meijer and more – covering more than 1.4 million store locations globally. The Retale Store Traffic Guarantee delivers these partners unprecedented value as more retailers and brands continue to look for ways to drive consumers in-store while more accurately tracking their success.

“Placed has seen firsthand how important in-store traffic measurement is for retailers and brands when gauging the success of their advertising campaigns,” said David Shim, CEO of Placed. “The Retale platform continues to drive best-in-class performance for offline visits and in-store lift. To see a company putting its success to the test by making such a bold guarantee is really exciting. Retale choosing Placed as their trusted measurement solution for this guarantee reinforces our status as the currency for offline attribution delivering ROI, transparency and accountability.”

“From day one of our U.S. launch, we have always believed that transparency is not an option for media, but really a fundamental expectation in the marketplace, even when many competitive companies did not follow suit.” added Stromborg. “The Retale Store Traffic Guarantee is a much deeper example of our commitment.”

 

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Celebrating 20 Years of HR at Douglass Distributing

Tamra Bragg has a passion for helping people reach their potential.

By Erin Rigik Del Conte, Senior Editor

If experience means anything, then Tamra Bragg knows human resources (HR).
Bragg has 40 years of total experience in the field and is celebrating her 20th anniversary this April with Sherman, Texas-based Douglass Distributing where she is the vice president of HR for the company and its c-store chain Lone Star Foods.

Convenience Store Decisions is honoring Bragg as an industry leader in human resources as part of our 2017 Human Resources Awards.

Bragg began working as an HR manager for Douglass Distributing in 1997. At the time, the company had six c-stores and 110 employees.

“After a few years, Bill Douglass (the owner of Douglass Distributing) approached me to be VP of HR and VP of Store Operations. I told him ‘Bill, I’ve never even touched a cash register!’ He said ‘You’ll do just fine,’” Bragg recalled.

After 10 years linking operations and HR, which she called a “great experience,” Bragg moved back into HR full time.

Today, the company has grown to 22 c-stores, eight quick-service restaurants and 406 employees. Bragg’s role involves recruiting, onboarding, workers’ compensation, benefits, organizational effectiveness, training, employee relations, compliance and team building.

While she recently hired an assistant, Bragg has primarily been an “HR of One.”
In 2015, Bragg spearheaded the automation of the HR process, partnering with People Matter/PDI for the role out of an applicant tracking system (ATS) and payroll interfaces. In 2017 she expects to rollout a new payroll and time tracking system to the entire company.

Under Bragg’s leadership, the company has also revamped its paid-time-off policy to make it more attractive for the younger generation, and plans to automate it into the payroll system. “This is a major change as we are still using the same system as we started with 36 years ago,” Bragg said.

LEARNING THE ROPES
Like most career paths, Bragg’s trajectory zigzagged on the way to the top of her field.
Bragg worked at a bank in high school and college. After completing two years of community college, she moved to Topeka, Kan. for a banking position. Following a record cold winter, the 21-year-old returned to sunny Texas and began working in human resources for Texas Instruments. For the next several years she worked in a variety of positions before taking a position at Folger Coffee Co./Procter & Gamble.

“During my 16 years with Folger Coffee, I held several positions in the HR team, ranging from compensation and benefits, safety, employee relations, product line startup, training and organizational effectiveness,” she said.

One day she received a call from Douglass. He was expanding and seeking his first “bona fide” HR manager. His friend had suggested her.

While retail was a “totally different animal” than her legal and manufacturing background, Bragg said she was up for the challenge.

Within her first six months, Douglass opened a 10,000-square-foot travel center with a Subway, Baskin Robbins, Burger King, convenience store and car wash. “I hired 75 new folks within a four-week period of time to be our start up team,” she said.

SHAPING TOMORROW
“What I enjoy most about my role is that I have a passion for seeing people rise to their potential. To have been a part of someone’s growth, development and achievement of their potential through opportunities we have available at our company provides provides me great satisfaction,” Bragg said. “A desire of mine from day one was to have processes in place to grow our people and provide them careers as opposed to just jobs.”

Bragg also serves as president of the local Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) chapter and spoke at the SHRM Volunteer Leaders’ Summit last November. “I have a passion for building the HR Brand in our community as well as in our company,” Bragg said.

In addition to celebrating 20 years with Douglass, Bragg is also celebrating 30 years of marriage and will soon welcome her ninth grandchild.

“My biggest goal is to train my replacement so that when I do finally retire somewhere down the road, the passion I have had for this position and Douglass Distributing will be in the heart of my successor, and the transition will be absolutely seamless,” Bragg said.

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Nye Reaching New Heights at Holiday

In his 41 years at Holiday Cos., Robert Nye has been critical to bolstering the workforce programs that have made Holiday Stationstores a major convenience store player.

By David Bennett, Senior Editor

A human relations specialist plays a critical role in determining adequate levels of employee satisfaction, resolving staffing conflicts, maintaining workforce management costs and devising plans to measure individual performance.

Convenience Store Decisions is honoring Robert Nye as a leader in human resources (HR) as part of its 2017 Human Resources Awards.

In his 41 years at Holiday Cos., headquartered in Bloomington, Minn., Robert Nye has been critical to helping implement programs that have accomplished all of the aformentioned tasks. For the last 31 years, Nye has led the company’s human resources department, a vital generator that drives the chain’s success.

Company subsidiary Holiday Stationstores operates 522 convenience stores in 10 states including Michigan, Washington and Alaska.

For the first decade of his career, Nye worked in retail operations.

“I started in an entry-level management position in a retail division of Holiday, which is no longer part of our business,” Nye said. “I worked my way up through store management and became the head of operations for that division before moving into human resources.”

CULTURALLY SPEAKING
Often, it’s a joining of traditional values, guiding principles and modern workplace concepts that help a company’s culture achieve success. So it is at Holiday Stationstores.
Since Nye took the HR helm at Holiday, the retailer has worked to nourish its company culture. The result has been a business that’s more productive and operates more efficiently. Within its geographic footprint, that culture has given the company a leg up on the competition.

“A respectful environment with opportunities for growth and competitive wages all add to the likelihood of an employee choosing to stay,” said Nye. “Through the years, countless employees have landed at Holiday at various points in their working life and have chosen to make us their career destination. Employee turnover is simply part of the c-store industry, but our tenure rivals the best-of-breed companies and we have many employees with over a quarter-century with the company; in fact, we have had several who have exceeded the 50-year mark.”

To support its company culture, Holiday boasts rigorous-hiring processes. Once an individual is on board, training commences.

TRAINING DAYS
Early on, employee training at Holiday Stationstores was achieved largely through paper-based workbooks, accompanied by a series of proprietary training videos.
“In 1997, we launched our computer-based training ‘Holiday University,’ which covered most of the skills needed to perform work in the stores,” said Nye. “At that time, keeping training programs current was a challenge, especially given the frequent changes in (point of sale) systems.”

The company in 2014, implemented a Learning Management System (LMS), utilizing a blended learning approach similar to those earlier learning strategies.

“The LMS-generated reporting is used to identify opportunities and strategize solutions, especially as it relates to store turnover and employee satisfaction,” Nye said.
Store managers are also afforded educational opportunities. Holiday has a staff of certified-training managers who work with new managers upon promotion or hire.

“Manager training consists of multi-week in-store training with a mix of live coaching, video training, reading material, classroom and knowledge quizzes,” said Nye. “This is all hosted in the LMS and reportable from the corporate office. Following in-store training, a field trainer spends time with the new manager helping implement what has been learned.”

During his long tenure at Holiday, Nye can point to many accomplishments.

“The growth of our benefits plans to enhance our employees’ security, well being and preparedness for retirement, is among the most significant contributions we have made to our team members,” said Nye. “Also, I am very pleased we have managed to reach a truly paperless employment process, from application, assessment, onboarding, training and ultimately paperless payroll for 100% of our employees.”

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Boosting Your Beverage Business

Whether it’s a modest combination deal or full promotional blowout, c-stores are finding the best methods to churn cold and frozen dispensed beverage sales.

By David Bennett, Senior Editor

A March 2016 survey by Mintel Group Ltd. showed that convenience store visitors want a wider variety of fresh food and beverages as part of their shopping experience.

As part of the report, 912 internet users aged 18 or older were asked: “Which of the following made-to-order or fresh foods/beverages have you purchased at convenience stores in the last three months,” 48% of respondents said fountain beverages, which was the top choice among food and beverage offerings.

Some years ago, the fountain category and the concept of fresh appeared contradictory. C-stores were known for a limited dispensed drink selection, with few promotions to push product. Frozen beverages often came out of a 7-Eleven Slurpee machine. However, convenience retailers today provide U.S. consumers a vast selection of cold and frozen dispensed beverages including fruit-infused slushes, milkshakes, iced coffees, novelty soft drinks and frozen beverage concoctions. The result is a category that continues to provide momentum when it comes to in-store sales.

EXTENDING FOODSERVICE SALES
C-store foodservice programs generated more than one-third of in-store gross-profit dollars in 2015, with cold and frozen dispensed beverage sales being key contributors, according to the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) 2015 State of the Industry report. By gross margin sales, cold beverages per store, per month grew to 50.86% in 2015. Frozen beverages weren’t that far behind with a gross margin percentage of 46.05%.

NACS’ preliminary State of the Industry report for 2016 will be out soon. When it is published, cold and frozen beverages will likely be strong performers again.

Arguably, the c-store channel has already earned the title as the cold dispensed beverage destination champ. Now, convenience retailers are adding some polish to the title in the form of new product offerings and flavorful deals to keep customers coming back—and not just to the cold vault.

“The thirst occasion is one of the primary reasons customers come to a c-store and a cold beverage is a great way to quench that thirst,” said Steven Montgomery, president of b2b Solutions LLC, a convenience store consultancy based in Lake Forest, Ill. “The question is: are they going to buy a beverage from the cooler or a dispensed beverage. The answer lies in the consumers’ personal preferences and how they perceive the retailer’s dispensed offers.”

Steve Magestro, president of Saukville, Wis.-based Mad Max Convenience Stores, counts dispensed beverages as a significant contributor to the company’s in-store profits and is looking to extend its advantage. Mad Max at the beginning of 2017 began installing a new generation, Pepsi Spire machine that offers consumers multiple drink selections at the touch of a button.

The chain operates 12 locations in Wisconsin, which in the winter, can be natural barrier to cold and frozen dispensed beverage sales. With the new machines, Magestro anticipates a big uptick in category sales when the weather begins to get warmer.

“Cold and frozen beverages always increase for us from April through September,” Magestro said. “Because of the temperature difference in our region, cold and frozen slow way down because of the cold weather. I think it will be flat from previous (winters).”

QSR COMPETITORS
However, for the upcoming summer season, which is often marked by road trips and consumers on the go, convenience stores also benefit from the high margins produced by salty snacks in the bag, or fresh and healthy snacks in grab-and-go portions. And where there are snacks, there are cold drink purchases.

“An advantage the c-store maintains is the tremendous selection of snacks that we offer that can be bought to go with the beverage,” said Montgomery.

Though snacks provide a natural boost to c-store dispensed beverage sales, the channel will continue to experience pressure from quick-serve restaurants (QSRs), which in the last few years, have positioned hot and cold dispensed beverages as stand-alone sales generators.

“Their strategy has shifted from being focused on selling the protein with the accompanying drink being an ancillary sale to one that understands that drinks can be a destination driver,” Montgomery said. “An example from the hot beverage category is shown to be McDonald’s emphasis on coffee. To date the only QSR that has already made the change for cold dispensed drinks is Sonic.”

Sonic Drive-In in the last few years has successfully marketed itself as premium place for dispensed beverages, where consumers can mix and experiment with drink combinations between its fountain drinks and slushes. Currently, the fast-food chain is promoting half-price shakes and ice slushes after 8 p.m.

That’s not to say the c-store channel isn’t concocting its own beverage strategies.

Anymore, c-store channel surfers can find popular beverage options such as Jolly Rancher Frozen Beverages, Hershey’s Freeze Frozen Beverages and Sour Punch Slushes.
Chilly coffee drinks have also gained traction in a growing number of c-stores.

PROMOTING SODA
Still, carbonated soft drinks continue to generate a bulk of cold and frozen dispensed beverage sales in the c-store channel.

For instance, Atlanta-based RaceTrac Petroleum offers up to 30 fountain options including Coca-Cola, Dr. Pepper and Pepsi products, plus another 18 frozen offerings. The retailer also has a private label frozen beverage brand, Numb Skull.

The c-store chain has expanded upon the model of a destination with its annual promotion known as Sodapalooza. Sodapalooza is RaceTrac’s most popular annual summer fountain and frozen marketing event. Customers who purchase a reusable Sodapalooza cup receive unlimited free refills on a variety of fountain drinks, teas and energy drinks at nearly 450 stores in the southeast.

Sodapalooza has become a favorite among RaceTrac promotions because of the timeliness of the promotion, as well as the exclusive access it provides, said Marianne Simpson, promotions manager for RaceTrac. 2016 was the fifth year RaceTrac has hosted Sodapalooza.

“Our guests are able to come into a RaceTrac like a VIP and refill their cup for free during the hottest months of the year, no questions asked,” said Simpson. “Additionally, in recent years, the cups have included general and regionally-specific coupons that add even more value to their refillable cup (e.g. all cups include Coca-Cola coupons while Atlanta guests may have a buy one, get one free Braves ticket, and Orlando area guests could receive discounted Sea World tickets). Finally, our store teams look forward to this promotion each year we have executed it, and team member engagement drives increased guest excitement.”

While the success of the beverage campaign is measurable, the planning that the annual promotion entails is demanding.

“It’s not always a guarantee that Sodapalooza will occur each year,” said Simpson. “Once a campaign ends, our marketing team works closely with our fountain category team to determine if the promotion was successful from a sales and brand-building perspective. If our internal teams determine the year’s campaign was a success, we will begin planning for the next year’s campaign in September, with plans to launch in the April or May of the coming year.”

Last year’s campaign ran from May 4-July 31, 2016.

Accompanied by clever advertising and social media campaigns, the beverage promotion has been a boon to RaceTrac in terms of attracting new customers.

“Social media is an integral part of the Sodapalooza promotion, as it allows us to leverage paid and earned tactics to increase awareness and drive purchase of the cups while engaging with our guests with channel-specific activities,” Simpson said.

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Ongoing Convenience Store Trends

Food safety, sustainability and technology are top of mind for retailers and consumers.

By Ed McKiernan, president retail solutions, Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

 As 2017 moves toward spring and summer, changes in the convenience store industry are beginning to bloom as well. Based on recent feedback from customers, there seem to be three primary issues that will play out over the next several months for the industry: addressing food safety issues, sustainability efforts and bottom line-benefiting technology.

The convenience store shopper is continually pushing the industry to innovate and grow. They are one of the main reasons more focus is now on foodservice; whereas before, it was often treated as an afterthought. Today’s time-pressed consumers, wanting convenience, are seeking fresh items, swift access and new motivations. To meet this growing demand, convenience stores are evolving from gas stations that happen to sell food, to food retailers that provide fueling options.

The remainder of this article looks at three industry trends in 2017 that are also being driven by the convenience store shopper.

  1. Greater visibility into food safety

A variety of healthy, fresh food options are currently accessible from most convenience stores, as many have adapted their facilities to meet consumer demand. Convenience stores also offer prepared food options in addition to onsite food preparation stations as store concepts converge to keep up with consumer tastes. As a result, delivering fresh food that customers want while keeping the food safe, reliable and profitable is a growing issue.

In an effort to consistently deliver and maintain food safety—as well as control shrinkage— many food retailers are starting to utilize facility data to increase visibility and control of the store equipment that maintains product freshness. Being able to access real time performance data in order to address potential food safety issues such as equipment downtime or refrigerant leaks can also help reduce maintenance costs and improve energy efficiency.

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) requires those in the food industry to implement and document a program ensuring safe transport of food within the U.S. Preventing food loss and protecting customers from foodborne illnesses are critical concerns for retail store operators. Integrating the cold chain from farm to fork and concentrating on pertinent data and monitoring, plus accessing cargo solutions and tracking can help address these concerns.

  1. Continued focus on sustainability

Consumers are increasingly conscious of the sustainability efforts of the brands they support. For many shoppers, a retailer’s standing in the community, as well as its impact on the environment are important factors in deciding where they shop. Food retailers understand this and have put considerable focus on sustainability efforts. One of the most effective ways food retailers can achieve sustainable, optimized operations is by addressing energy efficiency and ensuring food safety.

Retailers can take advantage of different types of monitoring and reporting to realize better energy performance across a network of stores. Setpoint management helps retailers maintain energy savings in the long term while ensuring that operational issues are actually fixed rather than just the symptoms treated. C-store retailers may also earn financial incentives from utilities, conserve energy, minimize power interruptions, increase energy reliability and protect the environment by reducing power usage during peak hours when demand on the power grid is high.

Refrigeration leak detection and minimization programs are also important. Food retailers must follow new regulatory requirements to prevent potentially costly EPA fines related to refrigerant leaks. The case for employing effective leak detection programs can be made by simply considering the cost of lost refrigerant, degradation of refrigerated system performance and potential for eventual food loss.

Food retail facilities generate a substantial amount of data, with information on HVAC and refrigeration equipment, which can provide an extensive picture of how operations are performing. Facility data will continue to become more valuable as new technologies are assimilated into an enterprise. The use of accumulated performance tracking data may better maintenance activities and permit management to plan out preventive maintenance actions.

  1. Leveraging IoT and connected devices.

Recent retail customer feedback has shown that energy costs continue to be a top concern. With the use of the Internet of Things (IoT) and connecting coolers, freezers, HVAC units and others power-using equipment to a centralized program, retailers can get an accurate picture of their energy use. The information allows them to manage equipment performance and utilize settings to target energy saving temperatures and lighting schedules.

Conclusion

As we continue to see how the year develops, change will be the one constant. Successful food retailers will come through these variations stronger by leveraging technology and adopting intelligent approaches to maintain food safety and sustainability, while making smarter business decisions that benefit their customers.

Ed McKiernan is President of the global Retail Solutions business. His Emerson experience began in 1999 as a strategic planning analyst; he has held a number of different marketing and product management roles, most recently VP/GM Enterprise Services at Retail Solutions before taking his current role in 2016. He received a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Notre Dame and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.

 

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Just the Benefits of Distilled Biodiesel

Four ways distilled biodiesel could give you a competitive advantage.

By Jon Scharingson

I’m going to talk about distilled biodiesel, but I promise you don’t have to worry about this being like the high school science class that always put you to sleep.

If you want more information about the science behind distillation and how the process differs from traditional biodiesel purification, stick around for the end of this blog post, where I link to a white paper that goes into those details.

I bet you’re more interested in learning about the advantages distilled biodiesel has to offer you as a fuel retailer. Because, in the end, what you probably care about most is how this type of fuel can benefit your bottom line and your customers. So without further ado, here are the top four reasons distilled biodiesel can give you a leg up on the competition.

What are the benefits of distillation?

  1. Superior cold weather performance

Distilled biodiesel has advanced cold flow properties because distillation does a superior job of removing minor components that can contribute to filter plugging. Far too often we hear from people who believe Cloud Point is the only thing that matters when using biodiesel in the cold. Even with a higher Cloud Point, distilled biodiesel can outperform undistilled low cloud biodiesel in cold weather.

  1. Feedstock flexibility

The minor components that can affect the quality of biodiesel depend in part on the feedstock. Because distillation does such a good job removing minor components, the producer has more freedom with feedstocks. We call this feedstock flexibility. Another benefit of this is that it allows for more nimbleness in the commodity markets, especially when facing price and supply fluctuations. If a certain feedstock is in short supply or the price isn’t right, REG can use another feedstock and still produce a high-quality fuel that exceeds ASTM and customer specs.

  1. Lower carbon intensity scores

Distilled biodiesel made from inedible feedstocks has a lower carbon intensity (CI) score than undistilled biodiesel made from vegetable oils. But inedible feedstocks tend to have higher Cloud Point. With Cloud Point being less of an issue in a distilled product, you can get a fuel with lower CI that also performs well in cold weather. That’s especially important in regions with air quality standards, like California, Oregon and some Canadian provinces, as well as with the growing number of fleets that have sustainability goals.

  1. Purity and blending ability

Distilled biodiesel is the purest type of biodiesel. This helps it blend more easily with petroleum diesel, because there are fewer minor components to hinder blending.

Learn more about distillation in this free white paper. For more information about REG, visit regi.com.

Jon Scharingson oversees the sales and marketing efforts for Renewable Energy Group, Inc., a leading biodiesel producer.

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