Episode 120 – Behind the Counter in the Convenience Store Industry



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Joe: On this episode of the "CPG & CBD University Podcast," we're going behind the counter with a look at the convenience store industry with "CSP Magazine." From the education and resources available to the trends and news around the industry, we'll cover it all on this episode of the "CPG & CBD University Podcast." And it starts right now. I'm Joe Agostinelli, host of the "CPG & CBD University Podcast." We welcome you back to our podcast. And it's always great to welcome new guests to the podcast. And today we are going inside the convenience industry with "CSP Magazine," a leading media outlet for retailers, distributors, and convenience store chains. Hannah Hammond is the tobacco editor for CSP and is joining me via Zoom for those of you watching this episode on YouTube. Hello, Hannah.

Hannah: Hey, Joe, how are you?

Joe: Good. How are you doing?

Hannah: I'm doing well. Thanks.

Joe: Has a winter broke yet in Chicago?

Hannah: It was 60 yesterday and dropped down to the 50s today, so who knows? We'll see.

Joe: Spring is here. Baseball right around the corner. So, maybe the weather will get a little nicer here.

Hannah: Fingers crossed.

Joe: First of all, Hannah, mention it briefly, but tell us a little bit about "CSP Magazine" and how you serve the C store industry.

Hannah: Yeah. So, the "CSP Magazine" has been around for more than 20 years now. We have several components, monthly magazine that distributes nationally. We also have our website, cspdailynews.com. And we publish a daily newsletter called "CSP Daily News" that goes out to more than 30,000 subscribers. So, on all of those platforms, we cover really everything in the convenience store industry from merger and acquisition news to information for category managers and categories like tobacco, packaged beverages, food service, and, of course, some CBD and cannabis products. And so our websites and newsletters really provide sort of a one-stop shop for C store executives and category managers to really find the best information on what products are doing well in their categories, what trends the industry is seeing, and a lot more. So, I definitely encourage any C store operator or supplier to check those out.

Joe: And in addition to staying on top of the news in the industry, CSP also offers educational resources for retailers. Discuss the different avenues that retailers can stay on top of those latest trends outside of really just the magazine you guys have a lot to offer on the educational side in addition to the latest news every day.

Hannah: Yeah. We have conferences throughout the year, which has been great because we've been able to get back and do a lot of those in-person again. Just a couple things off the top of my head, you know, the most relevant to CBD products would probably be our behind-the-counter forum, which talks about tobacco and CBD. We have industry experts come in and talk about relevant topics in both of those categories, as well as C store category managers, C store suppliers. It's kind of a time to all get together and talk about what's going on in tobacco and CBD. That one is taking place actually September 13th through 15th this year. We also sponsor the Alternative Products Expo, which takes place in early November. So, anyone could definitely reach out to me if they want more info on those. And, yeah, we have our own podcast too at your convenience that we publish twice a month. So, between all those things, there's lots of ways to get educated with us.

Joe: And we'll have links to some of that information in the description to this podcast, including a link to the contact info for those of you interested in learning more about those educational resources. Okay. Shifting gears now to the tobacco and hemp industries. When it comes to convenience, it seems like there's something happening every day. We've heard a lot about the tobacco industry. What challenges are retailers facing as we go along here in 2022?

Hannah: Yeah. Like you said, there's always some regulation hurdle that the tobacco industry and CBD industry is facing. Kind of the top-of-mind thing now I know for a lot of C store tobacco retailers is the FDA is going through its pre-market tobacco product application, or PMTA review. So, essentially that is gonna decide which major players are allowed to be marketed in the U.S. We're still waiting to hear on decisions for people or companies like Juul and Vuse Alto. So, depending on what the FDA decides, it really could shape the future of what vapor products are going to look like going forward on C stores' back bars. So, that's one of the main regulation things we're watching. And we saw the other day President Biden signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which gave the FDA authority over synthetic nicotine. So, we're still waiting to see what changes might come along with that. So, always something going on with the FDA. We know they've also talked about banning menthol and cigarettes and flavors and cigars. So, we're keeping our eye out for updates on that. Meanwhile, you know, we're seeing some products doing really well in the category. Outside of regulation, we're keeping an eye on alternative tobacco products like modern oral nicotine, which is really showing great growth right now. So, that's kind of a quick overview of what we've been keeping an eye on in the tobacco space.

Joe: And speaking of the tobacco space, and I meant to ask this and I skipped right over it, but what got you into the tobacco space and how does one become editor for tobacco?

Hannah: Yeah. So, when I first started here, I actually covered snacks and candy. And then just based on, you know, which feeds were available, I kind of migrated into packaged beverage and tobacco. So, really just a matter of what needed to be covered. And there's a lot of news, a lot going on in tobacco. So, that was a beat. We definitely needed someone to pay a lot of attention too. So, that's how I kind of evolved into the tobacco beat.

Joe: And speaking about evolve in the CBD and hemp category, excuse me, continues to evolve when it comes to convenience certainly seems to fit very well with tobacco behind the counter. Thoughts on how hemp continues to emerge in the C store space?

Hannah: Yeah. I mean, I know tobacco category managers in C stores, whether they're selling CBD or hemp products yet, now or not, they're definitely interested, you know, in that space. And a lot of C stores have already gotten into the CBD business. CSP is publishing our annual category management handbook in March, and that's a really data-heavy issue where we use supplier partners to get data on things like how CBD performed. And just as an example, like in 2021, you know, we saw CBD electronic smoking devices had huge, you know, like, triple-digit growth in dollar and unit sales in C stores in 2021. That was according to the data from IRI.

So, there definitely are growth areas. There are some areas that are struggling in CBD and C stores too. It kind of depends on the specific product or segment, but it's definitely something C stores are keeping an eye on. And I certainly wouldn't be surprised if in the next few years we saw more CBD products with tobacco on the back bar. It does kind of make sense to pair those together. Just anecdotally for what I've heard from C store retailers is a lot of them will have CBD maybe on a case by the checkout counter, but some might, you know, put CBD products like CBD vapor on the back bar already. So, definitely blur some lines with CBD and tobacco products.

And it really makes sense that C stores could be a go-to spot for CBD because they've already been on the forefront of innovation when it comes to, you know, any products in the C store. They're also used to selling age-verified products. C stores have sold, you know, tobacco products and alcohol products for years. And we see more and more technology coming out that is helping to sort of advance that ID-checking process. So, I would say the only hesitation, really, I've heard some C stores have and adding CBD is they're waiting on some clear federal legislation and guidance. That's the hang-up you run into, but, yeah, I think more universal guidance would really help operators be even more comfortable getting into the space. So, that's what I'm seeing on the C store side with CBD.

Joe: With the changes in tobacco and hemp industries, especially regarding regulations, discuss Convenience Retailing University from CSP and the community offers for retailers.

Hannah: Yeah. So, one of our best events for category managers and C store suppliers is Convenience Retailing University, or CRU. It's a three-day event that has really category-specific tracks. So, if you're someone who's really interested in, you know, tobacco or CBD, you can kind of follow those specific routes and learn a lot about those categories. This year's was in Orlando. And for example, I hosted a Q&A panel on behind the counter with some of our Category Manager of the Year finalists. So, these are people who are really, you know, doing well in their field and know a lot about these topics. So, it's always fun to learn a lot from them. So, yeah, anyone can visit convenienceretailing.com for more information on next year's event.

Joe: And real quick, just wanna wrap up, as you mentioned, the Category Manager of the Year. Obviously, CSP always honoring those who work in the convenience industry a lot of awards...excuse me, a lot of awards and events throughout the year.

Hannah: Yeah, definitely.

Joe: And for more information on those, you can visit the websites at cspdailynews.com. Sign up for their email alerts. I get them every single morning, checking out...

Hannah: Great. Thank you.

Joe: ...the latest headlines and, obviously, keeping up with all the industry news. Well, thank you for going through the tobacco industry. We'll have to see where this goes throughout 2022 and have you back on as regulations surely will probably change.

Hannah: Yes. So, we'll see. Thanks, Joe.

Joe: And as I mentioned, for all the latest news, trends, and C store industry happenings, visit cspdailynews.com. Hannah Hammond, tobacco editor for "CSP Magazine," my guest on this episode of the "CPG & CBD University Podcast." And don't forget you can also tune in to their podcast, "At Your Convenience." You can find their podcast in the same podcast stores where you can find the "CPG & CBD University Podcast." And don't forget to hit that Subscribe button to both our podcasts, "At Your Convenience" and the "CPG & CBD University Podcast" wherever you get your podcast episodes and catch full video episodes of our podcasts on the Global Widget YouTube channel. I'm Joe Agostinelli, host of the "CPG & CBD University Podcast." Thanks for tuning in.

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