Small Businesses that Help Fuel the Economy
The National Association of Convenience Stores, aka NACS, held their annual conference and expo this month in Atlanta, Georgia. I was one of more than 21,000 attendees and 1,200 exhibitors that covered nearly 400,000 square feet. The show rotates between three exciting food cities: Las Vegas, Chicago and Atlanta.
NACS is an international trade association representing more than 2,100 retail and 1,500 supplier company members. NACS member companies do business in nearly 50 countries worldwide, with the majority of members based in the United States. The U.S. convenience store industry, with nearly 145,000 stores across the country, had sales of over $500 billion in 2009.
Even though the top 50 convenience stores in the United States are members of NACS, the majority of its members are small, independent operators with more than 70 percent of its total membership comprised of companies that operate 10 stores or less. Sixty-two percent are owned and operated by someone who only has only one store!
Over the last 30 years C-Stores have been transformed from selling cigarettes, condoms, adult magazines and dusty canned goods and emergency supplies to a plethora of immediate consumable foods including a large array of snacks—some more healthful than others—a giant selection of cold beverages—Big Gulps and Guzzles—and coffee bars rivaling the likes of Starbucks and Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. Today many C-Stores are contemporary, well-designed road stops that feature everything from fresh deli sandwiches, hot soups and pizza to gasoline, motor oil and windshield wipers.
All of this is a far cry from the earliest “milk stores” such as 7-Eleven with its origins in 1927 Dallas, Texas. It was there and then that an employee of Southland Ice Company, Joe C. Thompson, started selling milk, eggs and bread from the ice dock. Joe and his family went on to become the largest C-Store operators in the United States.
But I digress… meantime back at NACS, I saw a variety of new products that you will soon find at your nearby, neighborhood convenience store.
My favorite was International Delight’s new Flavor Shots… a neat and clean dispenser that adds a burst of true flavor to coffee, tea and soda. I tried the Burnt Caramel, Chocolate Mint and Tahitian Vanilla, but my favorite was the Roasted Hazelnut. These added flavor thrills were also 100% sugar-free leaving no negative aftertaste.
There was also a large assortment of energy drinks, gums candies and even an energy enhancing lip balm. I tried the latter, but it only made my lips a little numb.
While there was plenty of chocolate exhibited at the show, none compared to the wonderful quality back home in the Choclatique Chocolate Studio. And, if you’re looking for convenience, Choclatique is just a mouse click away at www.choclatique.com.