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2024 OUTLOOK: Convenience and gas

Industry leaders from across Canada weigh in on the issues, trends and opportunities shaping the channel.
Tom Venetis
Associate Editor, Convenience Store News Canada + OCTANE
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Convenience Store News Canada reached out to industry leaders in convenience, fuel, distributing, vending and more to find out what's on their radar for 2024. 

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Farhan Alarakhia head shot

Farhan Alarakhia

Fuel director
Alimentation Couche-Tard | Circle K

2024 will likely be a challenging year, as Canadians grapple with inflation and higher cost of living. At Couche-Tard/Circle K we are focused on finding opportunities to deliver more value through our forecourt offerings on both fuel, car wash and store offerings.

As more and more Canadians are returning to the office, we need to find ways to save them time as they juggle busy schedules. Last year we invested significantly in upgrading most of our dispensers to enable contactless payment and other features. We also added the ability for our subscribers to activate their wash directly from their mobile phone.

Another trend we are watching closely in the continued adoption of EV’s. We are working with our North American e-mobility team on building our EV charging network. Circle K continues to build on its experience and leading market position in Scandinavia to bring its North American customers easy and adapted EV charging solutions as well as a compelling customer journey.

Finally, as Fuel Retailers we will need to prepare for increased renewable content in fuels. This will include a thorough assessment of existing fuel station equipment and working closely with equipment suppliers and petroleum contractors to ensure we have plans in place.


 

Chuck Arcand Core-Mark

Chuck Arcand

Corporate director of Canadian marketing
Core-Mark

If there is going to be one overarching theme for 2024, it is Innovation. We are going to see more food providers seeing the importance of the convenience store channel to their business and customers, and that will spur them to continue to innovate with more products. You are going to see an even greater number of ready-to-eat meals arriving on convenience store shelves as food manufacturers strive to meet a consumer palate that is hungry for new flavours and healthier options. You will also see the introduction of new technologies that will allow convenience stores to prepare more fresh meals for customers to eat right there in the store or to take home. Convenience stores are fast becoming food shopping destinations very much as grocery stores are today. Here at our Innovation Centre, we are continuing to innovate with new foods and technologies that will bring quick-serve restaurant attributes to convenience stores, giving Canadians even more food and eating options not just for 2024 but for many years going forward.


 

Stephen Bown Coca Cola Canada Bottling Limited

Stephen Bown

Vice-president of sales, small store
Coca Cola Canada Bottling Limited

In 2024, the retail and manufacturing industries will face both challenges and opportunities. It will be an exciting year as retailers and manufacturers strive to understand the diverse behaviours and preferences of consumers and adjust offerings to meet the consumer’s expectations. One key area of interest will be the population changes that are taking place in Canada.  Population is expected to grow nearly 2% due entirely to immigration.  This will have an immediate and dramatic impact and will require brands, and retailers to quickly adapt in order to engage with an evolving consumer base.

However, it is important to note that the country is also facing challenging economic conditions, putting pressure on households nationwide.  As a result of inflation, consumers have become more cautious and selective in their spending habits.  These concerns have led consumers to move away from discretionary spending and seek enhanced value in their essential purchases, while also looking for affordable luxury such as a small treat from time to time.

Additionally, consumers are increasingly aware of the environmental impact of their consumption choices. They now seek out brands that prioritize sustainability and social responsibility.  To succeed in this changing landscape, businesses must effectively communicate their authentic commitment to sustainability through innovative practices and clear messaging. Consumers are becoming purposeful in their purchasing decisions opting for fewer but higher-quality products that align with their desire to live more sustainably.

Therefore, value and purpose will likely be the primary drivers for consumers when choosing one brand over another in 2024.


 

Mark Goodman 7-Eleven Canada

Marc Goodman

Vice-president and general manager
7-Eleven Canada Inc.

In 2024 the impact of inflation will challenge Canadians to adopt new strategies to manage their budgets. This environment is an opportunity for us to deliver even more value to our customers without compromising quality including expanding our private brand assortment; offering a wider variety of affordable and craveable on-the-go meals and by generating buzzworthy excitement with industry exclusives that you can only get at 7-Eleven.


 

Paul Hogan Conagra Brands Canada

Paul Hogan

Vice-president and general manager
Conagra Brands Canada & International

We see two big opportunities for 2024: Canadians seeking great affordable, convenient food and accelerated growth in snacking including new flavours. Conagra Brands continues to modernize our iconic brands, leveraging fresh opportunities across our frozen, snacks and grocery portfolios to meet Canadian needs. We recently launched 34 new items including Swanson Oven Bakes, P.F. Chang’s, Bertolli skillet meals and Gardein Suprême chick’n meat alternatives in the Frozen aisle. In snacking, we now offer Slim Jim pantry packs and Angie’s Boomchicakpop’s Sweet Chili Puffs to satisfy snacking demands. 2024 will be another exciting year in food.


 

Amanda Mitchell Petro-Canada Suncor

Amanda Mitchell

Director of loyalty
Petro-Canada | Suncor

Our Petro-Points program has been helping Canadians save at the pump for nearly 30 years. A trend we’ve seen over time is that what Canadians expect from loyalty programs (including Petro-Points) is evolving. Notably, Canadians expect seamless digital experiences. The paper punch cards Canadians carried decades ago have transformed into smartphone-enabled apps. Today’s top loyalty programs provide digital experiences that add value. They make it quicker and easier to transact. They bring commonly performed tasks, like buying a car wash, into a unified, self-serve format. They help members track progress in real-time, like how many points they need for their next redemption opportunity. And so, we’re investing in our Petro-Canada app and Petro-Points program to do just that—provide a seamless digital experience that makes being a member even more rewarding.

Canadians expect to see new ways of being rewarded. Accumulating points or credits toward free items is now table stakes. Canadians also want to see discounts, personalized offers, surprise offers, access to exclusive experiences, and value from partner programs for things like travel and dining out. Ultimately, it’s that full suite of benefits that counts. And so, we continually look at how we can reward Canadians in new ways, including launching a loyalty partnership soon with Canadian Tire.

We’re also seeing that free loyalty programs like Petro-Points play an important role in providing value to Canadians when they need it most, especially when inflation has led to higher prices for just about everything. We’re excited about the continued evolution of Petro-Points, and we hope Canadians are too.


 

Serge Nadeau Groupe Beaudry

Serge Nadeau

Vice-president projects and development
Groupe Beaudry

For us the focus for 2024 here at Groupe Beaudry will be all around fresh products and ready-to-serve meals, including fresh sandwiches. We are looking to bring fresh products and meals to those convenience store retail operations that don't have the space, access to the needed commodities or the staff to prepare on their own those fresh meals and sandwiches.

We are using a central kitchen where we are going to prepare fresh sandwiches and freshly made meals for those convenience retailers and deliver them to their stores each day. We have right now selected 15 best-selling meals and sandwiches to prepare at the kitchen and we are putting in place a series of dedicated delivery routes and systems to deliver those fresh meals and sandwiches to our convenience partners. What we want to do is provide them with premium products, not standard fare meals and sandwiches. That is why you will see sandwiches made with freshly baked croissants and wraps. We are going to be providing them premium products, not your standard ham-and-cheese sandwich. We are looking to be making sandwiches made with freshly baked croissants and wraps. And we are also looking at fresh breakfast products as well to go with your morning coffee.


 

Nicolas Parra Metro

Nicolas Parra 

Negotiation and merchandising director
Metro

In the coming year, several major trends are set to shape the consumption dynamics. One of the most significant factors influencing consumer behaviour is obviously inflation. It is expected to continue its impact as consumers will increasingly seek out promotions and discounts to stretch their budgets.

In this tense and competitive environment driven by rising prices, our proximity banners have a unique opportunity to stand out. Their ability to offer value through a range of quality services, to foster conviviality and cater to the immediate needs of consumers can make them a preferred choice. In particular, we will continue to develop and invest in our stores, especially in our recently revamped Servi Express concept, and our Private Label brands will continue to gain market share, providing distinctive, good quality and affordable products.

However, there are challenges that retailers and the industry must address to keep the stores operational. Curbing illegal activities, particularly related to contraband tobacco, as well as reducing credit card interchange fees are crucial. This is not new but regulations and tangible measures will need to be implemented on these pressing issues.

Additionally, the end of Publisac, a well-known advertising flyer distribution system, will force us to quickly rethink our marketing strategies to maintain visibility and relevance in the eyes of consumers.

In summary, the year ahead promises to be one of adaptation and innovation for retailers, as they navigate the challenges of inflation, competition, and evolving consumer preferences while striving to contribute to a more sustainable future.


 

Karla Schlieper Mondelēz Canada

Karla Schlieper

President
Mondelēz Canada

As we head into 2024, we know Canadians are increasingly looking for snacking solutions that fit into their everyday life.

Our biggest focus at Mondelēz across our brands, including Oreo, Crispers and Ritz, will be to continue to be top of mind for on-the-go snacking occasions. Canadians want convenience and value without sacrificing on taste.

Mondelēz continues to prioritize quality ingredients to make products Canadians know and love. We’re accelerating our plans to deliver on innovation in the snacking space.


 

Jacinda Simpson Aisle 24

Jacinda Simpson

Category director
Aisle 24

In today's rapidly evolving economy and consumer landscape, the focus on value and convenience in the grocery shopping experience has never been more pronounced. Consumers are seeking not only affordability, but also functional benefits in the products they purchase. This shift in consumer behaviour has given rise to the popularity of value-added products that offer convenience or unique ingredients.

The frozen ready-to-go meal category has seen remarkable growth, driven by the convenience it provides to consumers. With the diminishing option of dining out for many, these products allow consumers to recreate restaurant-quality meals in the comfort of their own homes, often at a more budget-friendly price point. This trend is exemplified by businesses like Crafty Ramen and Porta Pizza, who have successfully packaged their beloved dishes into frozen, ready-to-go options that customers know and love, a trend we have capitalized on.

Aisle 24's commitment to providing user-friendly experiences is in sync with this evolving consumer landscape. In a world where consumers increasingly value both convenience and quality, businesses that can deliver on these fronts are likely to thrive and build strong customer loyalty.


 

Ian White Parkland Canada

Ian White

President
Parkland Canada

Choice, value, and rewards. We believe these consumer trends are here to stay, as Canadians look for ways to be efficient and make their dollars go further. Through our family of Canadian retail brands, we are focused on helping customers make the most of every stop. That means providing the right selection of quality products, delivering personalized offers, and supplementing our physical connection with customers with an intuitive digital experience.

Beyond making consumer transactions frictionless, customers want to be rewarded for their business. Through our Journie Rewards loyalty program, we will continue to offer increasingly localized, targeted offers that give our customers value on the products and services they want. And with an expanding loyalty partner roster, we are offering our customers more ways to redeem and save.


 

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