Proposed Legislation Could Let E-Cigs Off FDA’s Hook

A new bill looks to make e-cigs exempt from rules that impact tobacco products.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) has introduced “The Cigarette Smoking Reduction and Electronic Vapor Alternatives Act of 2017,” which aims to reduce the approval process for e-cigarettes under the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

According to a report by The Hill, the bill would reverse the Obama administration’s “Deeming Rule” which categorizes e-cigarettes as tobacco products that are subject to the same regulations on cigarettes.

Currently, the FDA’s deeming regulation gives it the authority to review e-cigarettes before they hit the market, requiring all products that hit stores after February 2007 to apply retroactively for approval. The process is both prohibitively expensive and could slow approval for newer e-cigarettes. But Hunter’s bill looks to make vaping devices except from that review as well as other rules.

The Hill noted that Reps. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) and Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.) introduced a separate proposal that would exempt thousands of vaping devices currently on the market from FDA approval. That bill is expected to be attached as a rider to Trump’s spending plan, according to Reuters.


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Sodapalooza Kicks Off At RaceTrac

Bottomless summer free refills start May 3 and continue until the end of July at RaceTrac Petroleum.

Sodapalooza is back once again at RaceTrac, bringing c-store shoppers free refills on unlimited fountain and NumbSkull frozen drinks all summer long.

Starting May 3, customers can head over to any RaceTrac to purchase a 2017 Sodapalooza cup and experience endless ways to cool down in the summer heat. The limited-time-only cups are available at any RaceTrac location for just $11.99 and are the ticket to enjoying FREE refills of fountain and frozen beverages through July 31.

Want to jump on the fast track and enjoy FreeFills now? RaceTrac Rewards members, social media followers and RaceTrac Insiders can visit RaceTrac during VIP Week (April 26 – May 2) to get their hands on a Sodapalooza cup a week early. Want to make the deal even sweeter? Download the free RaceTrac Rewards app on any iOS or Android phone to receive a coupon for $2 off a Sodapalooza cup purchase. That means only $9.99 for unlimited FreeFills – seriously!

To help you make the most of your summer, each Sodapalooza cup also includes between $30 and $150 in exclusive coupons, depending on your location, for RaceTrac food and fun experiences unique to your area.

“Sodapalooza at RaceTrac is the official kick off to summer for our loyal TracFanatics and we’re excited to celebrate again this year,” said Melanie Isbill, executive director of marketing at RaceTrac. “With the infamous southern heat already on its way, our guests are looking forward to staying cool the best way possible – with Sodapalooza and FreeFills all summer long.”

Download the free RaceTrac Rewards app via any iOS or Android phone by following instructions on the App Store or Google Play. For more information on Sodapalooza and other RaceTrac initiatives, follow RaceTrac on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and visit to become a RaceTrac Insider and get Sodapalooza news straight to your inbox, as well as giveaways and coupons throughout the year.




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Cumberland Farms Certified as Great Place To Work

Employees rate Cumberland Farms as a superior work place in an anonymous survey.

Cumberland Farms Inc. has been certified as a great workplace by the independent analysts at Great Place to Work.

The designation is based on extensive ratings provided by its team members in anonymous surveys. A summary of these ratings can be found at

“Beyond providing competitive pay and extensive benefits, we at Cumberland Farms want our team members to find fulfillment, growth, and enjoyment at work,” said Ari Haseotes, CEO of Cumberland Farms. “We are dedicated to delivering the friendliest, cleanest, and most convenient customer experience, by first creating a positive work environment – and The Great Place to Work Certification Program is an integral tool that will help us achieve that goal.”

Cumberland Farms offers its team members a number of perks and programs, including free beverages throughout the workday and an additional discount on gas when team members use SmartPay, its fuel discount and loyalty program. The company is often praised for its tuition reimbursement, which offers full time team members the eligibility to receive over $5,250 annually ($2,625 for part-time team members) – as well as its healthcare coverage, which requires just 30 hours per week for part-time team members to qualify for insurance.

In addition, Cumberland Farms was recognized by the Obama administration for its use of technology in engaging and connecting team members to leadership through its Farm Feed Team Member App.

“We applaud Cumberland Farms, Inc. for seeking certification and releasing its team members’ feedback,” said Kim Peters, executive vice president of Great Place to Work’s Certification Program. “These ratings measure its capacity to earn its own team members’ trust and create a great workplace – critical metrics that anyone considering working for or doing business with Cumberland Farms Inc. should take into account as an indicator of high performance.”

“According to our study, 84% of Cumberland Farms, Inc. team members say it is a great workplace,” said Sarah Lewis-Kulin, vice president of Great Place to Work Certification & List Production.

Cumberland Farms, Inc. team members completed 5292 surveys, resulting in a 90% confidence level and a margin error of ± 0.63.




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Positive Outlook Can Boost Food Sales

Macroeconomic drivers might help spur sales of grab-and-go foods in 2017.
By Tim Powell

Convenience stores should feel optimistic about 2017 considering the overall conditions of the U.S. economy thus far, especially when it comes to opportunities in foodservice.

In our latest research, Q1 Consulting found that all convenience store retailers expect grab-and-go foods to increase in demand this year compared to two years ago. This is important, particularly considering c-stores have counted on prepared foods to drive traffic and bolster profit margins.

Q1 expects growth to continue over the next 12-18 months due to some favorable macroeconomic factors that correlate directly to food away-from-home spending:
• The consumer drives 70% of economic growth and gross domestic product has been stable for the past year averaging 2-3% real growth. While recession remains on the horizon, other factors seem to be fueling the current economic cycle that has been in positive territory since 2009.
• Consumer confidence is at an all-time high. Consumers are more likely to spend on retail and foodservice items when they believe they are secure financially. The stock market daily hits new highs and the “wealth effect” is driving much of this optimism.
• Disposable income (DPI)—the money consumers have after taxes—has been stable to rising. A direct correlation to retail spending on food and beverage is DPI, which increased in the first two months of 2017. When consumers are confident and personal income ticks upward, retailers are often in a favorable position.
• Inflation has remained low. The consumer price index (CPI) dropped to 0.3% in March. Inflation for food has been hovering around 2.5%, with food-at-home inflation increasing faster than at restaurants. Convenience store retailers are able to offset higher retail food prices by increasing the mix of prepared food sales.
• Employment growth is strong. The unemployment rate dropped to 4.5% in March, showing that the job market is near full employment. Wage growth, however, has been relatively flat, and influences retail spending on food and beverage.
• Consumer spending is one area that is mixed. In March, retail sales for goods dropped at stores, restaurants and online by less than 1%. However, these figures do not include sales of services—such as healthcare and housing.

Moreover, Millennials are spending a share of their income on “experiences,” such as concerts and events, which are also not reflected in this data. Also, online sales—particularly delivery services—have been increasing sharply and Q1 expects c-stores will have to adjust to the new normal of this business disruptor and the Millennial shopper.

• There are clearly other indicators—such as capital investment, legislation (such as tax breaks), fiscal stimulus, healthcare reform and the policies of the new presidential administration that will impact convenience store retailers over the next 12-18 months that stakeholders must monitor.

From the retailer’s point of view, there are other sector-specific trends they believe will have an equal if not larger impact on in-store growth over the next 12 months. These include health and wellness (66%), an emphasis on delivery (47%) and snacking (46%).

As long as convenience stores continue to execute and listen to their patrons, they will continue to build a loyal consumer base that will help maintain prepared foods sales in a dynamic economic environment.

Factor                                                           Positions
Consumer spending                                  Down in March — Mixed
Disposable Personal Income (DPI)         Up
Economic Growth (GDP)                           Positive
Employment                                                Better than market expectations in March 2017
Wage growth                                                Mixed
Inflation (CPI)                                             Around 2.5% down in March
Consumer Confidence                               Highest level since 2000

Tim Powell is a senior analyst with Q1 Consulting LLC in Chicago. See more information on his practice at


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Alternative Ingredient Snacks

Consumers’ quest for healthier snack options is changing the face of traditional c-store offerings.

By Howard Riell, Associate Editor.

A new national study by Amplify Snack Brands and the Center for Generational Kinetics indicates Millennials have been the driving force behind the growth of the better-for-you snack category.

Among the findings, 64% of Millennials—more than any other generation—believe that fewer ingredients mean a snack is healthier. In addition, 79% of Millennials said that understanding all the ingredients increases their level of trust in a packaged snack.

This trend has created a thriving market for so-called alternative ingredient snacks—those made using vegetables and grains such as chickpeas, sweet potatoes, kale and spinach, as well as pulses (including dry beans, dry broad beans, dry peas, chickpeas, cow peas, pigeon peas, lentils, Bambara beans, vetches and lupins).

Indeed, according to Packaged Facts, sales of alternative ingredient snacks in 2017 are forecasted to reach $1.2 billion.

For the second consecutive year, alternative snacks, a category driven by protein- and energy-rich items, reached the top 10 in-store merchandise categories, also signaling a desire by consumers for immediate/healthier snacking options.

The growth of variety in the sub-category has understandably resulted in slowed sales for some traditional snacks. For instance, for the 52-week period ending Feb. 19, 2017, market research firm Information Resources Inc. (IRI) reported that c-store sales of snack nuts surpassed $618 million, a dip of 1.19% from the previous year. Sunflower and pumpkin seed sales totaled $314 million, a 3.63% decline during the same period.

The audience for alternative ingredient snacks may well be larger than many retailers assume, noted Ryan Mathews, the president of Black Monk Consulting, based in Eastpointe, Mich.
“A lot of people will probably say Millennials and Gen Z, but I think that’s a mistake,” said Mathews. “Lots of lower-income people, for example, turn to health foods because they can’t afford complex medical care. Older customers also tend to be on restricted diets, so I think the potential may be broader than most people think.”

Mathews sees the healthy snack equation in relatively simple terms.

“I think consumer demands are best understood by thinking in terms of two apparently opposite concepts: good equals the absence of some ingredients—gluten, sugar, salt, GMOs, hormones, etc.—and good equals the presence of other ingredients—super fruits, organics, etc. C-store customers, like everyone else, are demanding both forms of good.”

At this time, the healthy snack category seems a moving target for c-store retailers. “Today’s darlings are tomorrow’s despised,” said Mathews, who pointed out it’s hard to go wrong now with quinoa, which is known for its health halo, but in time another food trend is likely to take its place.

“But again, this is an area where good is more often defined by what is not in a product than by what is,” he said.

For Mathews, the key to igniting this category is simple, but tricky.

“There are a lot of c-store shoppers looking for that sugar/sale fix, so you can’t afford to send them en masse to the competition.”

Mathews said that while product sampling is clearly the best way to stir trial, he has not seen much of it

happening in convenience stores. “I’m surprised that we don’t see more interest in balanced meals, say a hot dog and bag of kale chips and a bottle of water for a hot price.”

“The healthy snacks sell really well for us,” reported Michael Mendez, the owner of Mendez Fuel Holdings LLC in Miami, Fla. “It’s definitely a growing segment for us, so much so that we are looking at healthier drinks, as well.”

Mendez said that he has been carrying alternative ingredient snacks in his four stores for quite some time. “We carry a lot of dairy-free items that are also part of that alternative/healthier snack segment. That’s a big thing, as well, in the healthy area: dairy-free.”

Chief among the popular alternative ingredient brands are Pro Bars. “They really do well for us.” The plant-based line was an early innovator of non-baked bars with raw ingredients, marketing itself as supporting non-GMO and organic agriculture.

“We also carry a lot of paleo products that also do very well for us,” Mendez added. “We have a huge healthy snacks section. In fact, it’s bigger than our regular candy section.”

C-store operators are well advised to merchandise both indulgent and better-for-you options together within the parent category section in the store. For example, according to Louisville, Ky.-based marketing firm Price Weber, meat snacks perform best when merchandised in the jerky section as opposed to being merchandised in a better-for-you section stocked with healthier options from a mix of categories.

Some stores have broken out small organic sections next to conventional items, with signs drawing the attention of consumers. Though specific product selection might vary, the desire for healthier snacking among c-store shoppers remains unmistakable.

“Our healthy shoppers haven’t so much been demanding alternative ingredients like kale, sweet potatoes, chickpeas, etc.,” said Kristie Bell, director of communications for West Des Moines, Iowa-based Kum & Go, the fifth-largest privately held, company-operated convenience store chain in the U.S. with more than 430 convenience stores in 11 states.

“Instead, they are looking for basic high-protein items like Quest bars and beef jerky, or better-for-you indulgent snacks like trail mix with chocolate.”

Kum & Go stores augment those healthful offerings with a selection of fruit cups, yogurt, an egg white breakfast offering, salads and some healthy lunch sandwich options to meet the demands of customers.

The Surprising 70%
In Packaged Facts’ December 2016 “National Consumer Survey,” the research firm asked consumers if they ate salty snacks or crackers made from alternative ingredients including those made from pulses, seaweed, or those using whole, multi or so-called ancient grain formulations made from vegetables.

The survey revealed that a surprising 70% of adults had eaten at least one of these types of snacks in the last 30 days. Whole grain and multigrain formulations were the most popular type of alternative ingredient snack, while the fewest number of adults ate seaweed-based snacks. Among the reasons consumers named for choosing alternative ingredient snacks were novelty and nutritional variety and taste.

One aspect the survey, according to Packaged Facts’ Norman Deschamps, revealed is that people living in urban areas are the biggest fans of alternative ingredient snacks, even more so than people who live in suburban areas and far more than those living in rural settings.

The report revealed that sales of alternative-ingredient snacks increased to approximately $1.2 billion in 2017. As Packaged Facts’ Research Director David Sprinkle said, “Looking at both present trends and towards the future, alternative ingredient snack sales are going to continue moderate to strong growth over the next few years, building on the larger healthier-for-you trend affecting the overall snack market and on the unique flavors and textures consumers are also craving.”

The biggest contributor to rising sales in 2016 was alternative vegetable-based snacks, especially in salty varieties. Packaged Facts estimates that the salty snack segment of the alternative-ingredient snack market grew almost 7% in 2016, outpacing the salty snack category. In the decade leading up to 2016, adults who usually snack on healthy foods increased from 24% to 30%.



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Difference Between Success and Failure

The difference between success and failure in business is often quite miniscule.

By Jim Callahan

here’s a fine line between success and failure. Sometimes the line is so thin, if it were a pair of pants, it would have only one belt loop.

Do you know what else is thin: the difference between profits and loss. It’s my firm belief that it takes just as much effort to lose money as it does to make it.

Let’s examine this premise with a payday anecdote. The team that wins the Super Bowl takes home double what the losing team makes. In the last Super Bowl, for the losing team—my team, the Atlanta Falcons—the payment for each player was $53,000—a year’s pay for some, but less than half of what the winning team members of the New England Patriots took home ($107,000).

My Falcons led the entire game, right until the waning last few seconds and conversely those pesky Patriots were losers until one critical play—a play I might add that earned each Patriot player and coach $54,000 more than each Falcon.

The losing Falcon team got just as sweaty and dirty and trained just as hard, and as the saying goes: “Left it all out on the field” just as the Patriots did that Sunday. Yet, one team was SUCCESSFUL and one team was a FAILURE. Surely the difference was, as MINISCULE as miniscule gets—less than 30 seconds in a 60-minute contest.

Bet your bottom dollar that the failing team will examine the things including players, coaches and front-office personnel that led to failure and address the changes they feel will make up the miniscule differences between going home with a sick feeling in their gut and joy of hoisting that Lombardi Trophy.

The fact that New England quarterback Tom Brady couldn’t keep track of his own jersey is beside the point.

Just like in the convenience store and truck stop business, employees get paid regardless of success or failure.

If you know anything about either business or football, you realize that a winning team can’t rest on its laurels and as the New England Patriots have proved year after year, will review, analyze and make the difficult decisions it feels necessary to remain a success and stay on top.
So, if it takes as much effort to lose money as it does to make money what is the difference? Each team must navigate those 100 yards in order to score. But, it’s in that final 20 yards where you will find the difference between being stifled by challenges or rising up and defeating them.

In football those final 20 yards are referred to as the “red zone.” It’s widely accepted that that piece of terrain is the most fiercely defended on the whole field. Navigating the first 80 yards leading up to the “Red Zone” is admirable and it takes hard work, sweat and frustration.

Knowledge, determination and skill are also required to play the game, but it’s to no avail if you can’t traverse those final yards necessary to deliver those points on the scoreboard.
Are you delivering for your customers? Are you playing the game the way your business plan was drawn up?

Review your scheme and your team. Assess your Red Zone (Profit) proficiency, determine your weaknesses, whether they reside in management, in your employees, inventory control processes, marketing, curb appeal, foodservice, etc.

Once they’re identified, address them one by one because unlike football, a losing c-store team does not get to return for many seasons.

Money earned is a winning feeling. Lost sales spurred by poor service or bad merchandising is a lowly feeling.

This elusive success might be tied to the coaching staff that observed a very small crack in their opponent’s defense and waited for the right moment to capitalize. Maybe, it’s simply the team captain that gives the impassioned speech in the huddle to rally his teammates, driving them to increase their output.

It can be a key block or a deflective pass that pays off in the end, but often the difference between winning and losing is effort and the willingness to succeed. You can’t really see it, but it’s there.

Industry veteran Jim Callahan has more than 40 years of experience as  a convenience store and petroleum marketer. His Convenience Store  Solutions blog appears regularly on He can be reached at (678) 485-4773 or via e-mail at


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