What do diesel conditioning systems, cold brew coffee and EV chargers have in common? They were all among the hottest products featured at retail fuel and convenience industry trade shows throughout 2018.
We’ve condensed a year’s worth of expos into a dozen highlights for gas station managers, convenience store operators and more. If your fuel operation has been on the nice list this year, look no further than this list for the perfect holiday treat!
1. Knock-Out Your Diesel Fuel Tank Corrosion
Veeder-Root is developing an in-sump diesel fuel conditioning system to remove water and prevent microbial growth. A filtration system removes water from the fuel in a two-step process. The filter needs to be changed every six to 12 months and can be performed while doing an inspection. The system is expected to be commercially available next spring, reps said.
Franklin Fueling Systems was exhibiting a similar system called the Corrosion Control System. In the tank, a fuel-water separator suctions the tank bottom, and in the sump, a moisture control pack absorbs humidity. A sensor detects a corrosive atmosphere in the sumps or tanks, as well as humidity inside the sump, and alerts stations when the moisture control packs need replacing, Franklin says.
2. Car Wash Crazy
Though interest in food service overtakes all other potential diversifications, the car wash business could catch up. Just recently, the workshop “Your Next Big Category: The Car Wash” was so packed that NACS staff had to cut off admittance.
Car washes, especially combined with loyalty clubs, can make retail gas stations a destination. Vendors said car washes can fetch a 70% gross profit margin and marketers point out that even if EVs replace gasoline-powered autos, vehicles will still require a wash.
3. Charged about EVs
The Fuels Institute sees plug-in electric vehicles as a niche segment unlikely to seize a large share of the U.S. new vehicle market anytime soon. But John Eichberger, the institute’s executive director, said government incentives supporting EVs will eventually go away, and it may make sense to at least pilot EVs in a metropolitan store where there may be demand.
Some of the industry’s pioneers in alternative fuels are dabbling in EV charging stations, partnering with several charging networks – such as Electrify America, EVgo and Tesla – that require the merchant to provide only a couple of parking spaces.
Dispenser-maker Gilbarco Veeder-Root announced that it had made a minority investment in Tritium, a privately held EV charging manufacturer, and displayed a fast-charging unit at its NACS exhibit.
Full-service equipment vendor Petroleum Solutions Inc. grabbed attention in Texas, launching a division called PSI Energy Solutions combining offers of its existing electrical services, lighting solutions and fuel generator systems with EV charging stations.
4. Cars Getting Connected to Pay for Gas
Technology vendor P97, which offers a leading mobile payment platform, teamed up with Honda and Phillips 66 at this year’s NACS show to exhibit a payment system for fuel using the vehicle’s infotainment system.
In-dash payment has made strides. General Motors, which also uses P97’s technology, has partnered with several major oil brands to allow payment for fuel over its Marketplace In-Dash system.
Shell is likely the furthest along among majors in a partnership with GM. In August, it rolled out in-dash fuel payment nationwide for GM vehicles equipped with Marketplace. Except for pumping gas, the transaction is handled inside the vehicle.
5. Biometrics Identification Sees a Boost
Biometrics technology seems to be gaining traction for identification. At one regional trade show, at least two firms were exhibiting equipment using facial recognition – one to make ordering food faster and the other to identify potential shoplifters.
Siment Digital Media, of Mauldin, S.C., supplies interactive digital displays that can be used as menus for ordering food.
DeepCam, of Longmont, Colo., uses artificial intelligence and facial recognition in a video surveillance system to identify suspicious activity.
BP showed off another form of biometrics at its show for branded marketers: Motorists pay for fuel with the swipe of their palm.
6. Cardless ATMs
There’s still plenty of talk about mobile payment at the pump but going cardless is also trending at ATMs, said reps for Payment Alliance International.
Consumers can use their cellphones to withdraw cash with a bank authorization code. Just select “cardless service” and insert the code.
7. On-Board Safety Videos
Video-based safety systems within trucks are growing more accepted even among commercial drivers, said SmartDrive Systems Inc.
The systems are primarily valued as a coaching tool. Most video safety systems provide a road-facing camera and some also include a cab-facing camera.
SmartDrive allows customers to deploy more cameras for a 360-degree view and insight into risky driving behavior. Some 35% of collisions are side and rear incidents, the vendor said. SmartDrive said the cameras can reduce collision frequency by more than 50%. Its data shows that 69% of incidents involve speeding; 59%, distractions; 74%, fatigue; and 75%, unsafe following.
8. Safer Safes for Gas Stations
Armor Safe Technologies touted automatic, same-day electronic bank deposits to reduce trips to the bank and improve security.
After depositing cash throughout the day, the store manager can hit a button to close out the safe. An armored car company can be alerted to pick up cash and provide change one, two or more times a week, depending on store volume.
9. Pot of Gold?
Marijuana sales garnered plenty of interest at the NACS show.
At the time of the show, NACS pointed out that nine states plus the District of Columbia allowed recreational use of marijuana and more than 30 allowed medical use. Cannabis is illegal at the federal level.
NACS offered a session on how convenience retailers can legally benefit by offering accessories for pot smokers.
10. Convenience Stores' Brewing Profits
Cold brew is especially popular in hot climates such as Texas, said Royal Cup Coffee & Tea.
Now convenience stores are getting into the bottled cold brew products, Royal said.
However, hot dispensed coffee is still the cornerstone of the convenience business. C-stores are raising prices on hot dispensed coffee to $1.29-$1.69, depending on size, and the former standard of 99cts is disappearing, a rep also said.
11. Grab & Grill
You’ve heard of grab-and-go food but maybe not “grab-and-grill” meats.
Meat vendor Prime House Direct offers a variety of “restaurant quality” steaks, beef patties, chops, chicken breasts and shrimp in individually vacuum-pack portions that are “grill ready.” The meat can be displayed in a chest or upright case.
The product delivers a 30%-40% markup, according to literature.
12. Problem-Solving Packaging
Some packaging got smarter; some even got “greener.”
For instance, a new type of cup called the “ButterflyCup” eliminates the need for lids and straws and it is 100% compostable and recyclable. There’s a patent on the seal, which also is said to eliminate splashes, leaks and drips.
Another vendor replaced bottled water with “boxed” water. A Holland, Mich., company known as Boxed Water Is Better introduced water in a plain, white beverage carton with simple black lettering touting the environmentally friendly container. The carton is 74% renewable material, 100% recyclable and BPA free. Boxed Water Is Better plants two trees for every case sold.
Other clever containers for snacks are designed to fit perfectly in a cup holder, such as Campbell’s Well Yes! Soup, which are 200-calorie soups made to sip on the go.
In the tobacco category, Marlboro Ice cigarettes come in a new “reseal” pack that Altria Group is calling “our biggest packaging innovation since the flip-top box.” The cigarette pack’s top shuts itself. Altria reps said research shows the reseal pack increases smokers’ purchase intention.
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