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7-Eleven’s parent company sees opportunities for fresh foods

7-eleven-logo-500x4007-Eleven Inc.’s parent company Seven & I Holdings Co. Ltd. is giving two thumbs up to the convenience store’s efforts in fresh food.

On July 18, the Japanese company announced that 7-Eleven’s U.S. operations reported the highest operating income in its history, and saw a 3.4% comparable store sales increase during the first quarter of 2019, with fresh food and 7-Select private brand products driving results, reported the Dallas Morning News.

Looking forward, the company intends to continue down this path and lend some of Japan’s strengths to the United States branch.

“The development and improvement of fast food items is important and something which we will be doing going forward,” Tokyo-based Seven & I Holdings wrote in its Q1 report. “We also believe changing public perceptions of 7-Eleven in the United States to be important. In order to change public perception when it comes to buying food products at 7-Eleven, like is common in Japan, we will be strengthening store cleanliness and improving customer service.”

7-Eleven’s recent efforts include the opening of a lab store and experiential testing ground in Dallas. Highlights of the lab store include made-to-order smoothies and aguas frescas, street tacos with handmade tortillas, baked-in-store cookies and croissants, a growler station that pours local craft beers, and both patio and in-store dining areas, as Convenience Store News previously reported.

These solid results continued into the second quarter. Same-store sales at U.S. 7-Eleven stores were up 5.2% in April and 2.8%. Additionally, the 7Rewards loyalty program and introduction of 7-Eleven private label products at the c-stores it acquired from Sunoco in 2018 increased profit margins, according to the company.

Looking ahead, the retailer plans to continue renovating U.S. stores and testing a scan and payment system that enables customers to pay using their smartphones. The latter is part of the company’s personnel-saving efforts and designed to increase profitability.

Seven & I Holdings also reported that 7-Eleven’s U.S. operating income reached $161 million during the quarter, up $31 million from the previous year, allowing the parent company to post profits exceeding its guidance for the three months ending March 2019.

Irving-based 7-Eleven operates, franchises and/or licenses more than 68,000 stores in 17 countries, including 11,800 in North America.

Originally published at Convenience Store News. 


Canadian food supplies at risk if climate change not slowed: UN report

Canada will not be spared the impact of food shortages and price shocks if global warming is not kept below 2 degrees Celsius, a new report on land use and climate change suggests.

The report, released this month by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, delivers stark warnings about the need for drastic changes to agricultural practices, human consumption habits and forestry management to prevent an escalation in the climate-change-related floods and forest fires that could lead to a global famine.

The Paris climate change agreement is straining to keep global warming below 2 C and as close to 1.5 C as possible, and Thursday’s report is the third in 10 months to lay bare the consequences if it fails. It also comes a week after the planet experienced its hottest month ever in July, following the warmest April, May and June on record.

At warming above 1.5 C, the report predicts periodic food shocks, significant and widespread melting of permafrost and an increase in the length of wildfire seasons.

Above 2 C, there will be sustained disruptions in food supplies all around the world, widespread increases in wildfire damage and detectable losses of soil and vegetation that can be attributed to climate change.

It is projected that for every degree of global warming, the world’s yield of wheat will fall 6%, corn by 7.4%, and rice and soybeans both by a little more than three per cent each. Together those four crops account for two-thirds of the calories consumed by people, and with the population growing by 80 million people each year on average, the world needs to produce more food, not less.

Werner Kurz, a senior research scientist at Natural Resources Canada and one of two Canadians among 108 scientists who co-authored the report, said he doesn’t think most people understand the magnitude and pace of climate change, but he also said he believes reports like Thursday’s must be used to deliver potential solutions, not just nightmares.

“As scientists we need to be careful in sort of communicating doomsday scenarios because if we create a fearful world, then inaction will be the consequence,” he said. “People will be paralyzed and fearful.

“What instead this report is trying to do – and I hope is successful in achieving – is to, yes, lay out the consequences of inaction, but also then highlight the many opportunities we have for action and the co-benefits this has for livelihoods, for water.”

Kurz said to slow global warming, people need to burn fewer fossil fuels and improve how land is used, so that it not only contributes fewer greenhouse emissions, but also absorbs more of them.

The report suggests agriculture, forestry and other land use activities contributed almost one-quarter of the greenhouse gas emissions produced by human activity between 2007 and 2016.

That includes changing human diets to be more plant-based and less meat-based, because plant-based proteins require less farmland.

It also means diversifying the kinds of trees being planted in forests rather than focusing entirely on coniferous trees, which burn differently than deciduous trees. Using more wood to build things like houses and buildings and replanting with more diverse species can help regenerate forests, which become bigger risks for fires when they are old, he said.

But Kurz, whose job for Natural Resources Canada is to track the contributions forests make to Canada’s emissions, said there is a vicious cycle in play where climate change has made more forests vulnerable to burning, but that burning is then contributing to more climate change.

Catherine Abreu, executive director of the Climate Action Network Canada, said the idea of diversifying forests is critical to improving their management.

“Canadians and Canadian governments tend to think of our forests as carbon sinks rather than sources of emissions, but we know that has been false now for a couple of years,” she said.

Kurz acknowledged that the changes needed likely won’t come easily for many people, but he said understanding the implications of not doing it should help.

“What we need to realize is that how we choose to live will have an impact on future climate.”

 


Scheer’s pledge to review new Food Guide challenged by health community

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is facing criticism from nutrition experts after he pledged last week to review the new Canada Food Guide should the Tories win power this fall.

Scheer, who spoke at an annual meeting of the Dairy Farmers of Canada in Saskatoon on Wednesday, says the process to craft the new version of the document designed to assist Canadians in meeting their dietary needs was flawed and that his party wants to ensure the guide reflects what “science tells us.”

The Dietitians of Canada tweeted that Canada’s new Food Guide is most definitely based on science, adding it encourages people to eat vegetables, fruits, whole grains and protein foods, including dairy.

The Canadian Digestive Health Foundation says Scheer’s comments were not backed up or founded by any scientific data, adding it supports the current direction of Canada’s Food Guide.

An overhauled version of the document was publicly released in January and did away with food groups and portion sizes, focusing instead on broader guidelines including eating more plant-based protein and drinking more water.

Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor issued a statement that accuses Scheer of “spreading lies” about the guide and says it was enthusiastically welcomed by Canadians and celebrated as a world-leading document.


The key to attracting health-conscious shoppers

snackbuyer-teaserForward-thinking convenience store operators are jumping onto the healthier bandwagon.

In early May, c-store industry giant 7-Eleven Inc. announced that it was introducing nearly 100 new better-for-you items from 31 up-and-coming companies into select stores as part of a test. The selection, placed in 125 Los Angeles-area stores, was curated from 7-Eleven’s first “Next Up” emerging brands showcase, which was held at its Store Support Center in Irving, Texas, last fall.

The better-for-you product assortment includes options for power-snackers, restricted diet-followers and anyone looking for ways to incorporate more functional, better-for-you sips and snacks to keep them fueled while on the go, according to 7-Eleven. The items span keto, paleo, vegan, organic, high-protein, low-glycemic, gluten-free, nutrient-dense, plant-based and cold-pressed.

“When our emerging brands team created this unique product assortment in collaboration with our category managers, the goal was to give customers drinks and snacks that they might not expect to find at a 7-Eleven store,” said 7-Eleven vice-president of new business development Chris Harkness. “Customers are demanding healthier options, and we know LA customers are leading the country in health and wellness trends, always willing to try the newest and most innovative products and services.”

Young consumers between the ages of 18 and 34 are particularly interested in the functional aspect of foods, according to research conducted by youth marketing and millennial research firm Y-Pulse.

These consumers want products that not only satisfy their hunger, but also pack a nutritional punch. They say they enjoy eating superfoods such as dried fruits, nuts and seeds that serve specific functional purposes.

Along with wanting their healthier foods to taste good, younger consumers also want healthy eating to be easy, convenient and work around their on-the-go lifestyles. Specifically, the findings of a recent Y-Pulse study showed that:

  • 81% say they shouldn’t have to try too hard to eat healthy;
  • 76% say they are likely to buy raw fruits and vegetables to eat on the go; and
  • 66% say they don’t mind paying extra for a snack if it’s a healthy option.

WHAT IS HEALTHY, REALLY?

Today, “healthy eating” isn’t a set of hard and fast rules, but rather a state of mind — “a continuous, aspirational approach to food with balance, flexibility and practicality,” according to Ellen Rudman, vice president of strategic planning and research for marketing agency Blue Chip Marketing Worldwide.

Fresh, whole and minimally processed are the current cornerstones of better-for-you. However, the definition of what is “healthy” is in constant evolution.

“Having conducted quite a number of focus groups recently on this topic, what we consistently find across geographic markets and demographic groups is that better choices are typically identified with food that is either known to be fresh-made or made-to-order,” said veteran convenience store industry consultant/designer Joe Bona of Bona Design Lab. Consumers equate freshness with quality and being healthier, he added.

While the definition of healthy continues to evolve, the need for convenience and “on the go” is steadfast and, in fact, stronger than ever. “Consumers demand convenience and evaluate every option through a whole new set of food values,” Rudman said.

She wants c-store retailers to consider: Some consumers think it’s inconvenient to be healthy, so how can your convenience stores change that perception?