- Wawa, the northeast convenience store chain with a loyal customer following, released its first private label beer, Winter Reserve Coffee Stout, in collaboration with Pennsylvania-based 2SP Brewing Company on Monday. A preview tasting last week in Philadelphia drew nearly 500 customers.
- The limited-edition oatmeal stout is steeped with Wawa’s own Winter Blend coffee and evokes the flavors of “sweet clove, dark chocolate and graham crackers,” according to a company release.
- The convenience store, which is known for its impressive beverage selection, is only releasing 1,000 cases of the brew. The beers are priced at $12.99 for four 16-ounce cans and can be purchased at bars, bottle shops and distributors in the five-county Philadelphia metro area.
Craft beer sales may have plateaued in the past year, but consumers are still seeking out unique brews, often with ties to local, independent brewers, opening a window of opportunity for private label brands. Wawa’s collaboration with a community-based brewer also highlights the popularity of limited-edition products, demonstrated by the huge turnout for the pre-release event. The special, seasonal beer shows that the retailer understands its customer base and is keen on creating products just for them.
Not only can convenience stores cater to specific customers with curated products, but they are also able to serve the growing demand for quick shopping trips due to their small, conveniently located stores. According to a study from the Food Marketing Institute and Nielsen, shoppers prize efficiency and quality when it comes to their food and beverage offerings, both of which convenience stores can offer. Private label products especially give them more quality control.
Wawa isn’t the first c-store to add private label products to its shelves. Yesway expanded its portfolio of private label products this fall with its own lines of candy, baked goods and water. The company is developing a full line of chips, meat snacks, nuts and trail mixes for 2019. When it comes to beer, Kroger, Trader Joe’s, Walgreens, 7Eleven and Walmart have all produced their own varieties.
Private label products have evolved significantly in the last few years and will continue to do so. What used to be seen as “generic” or “value-priced” are now sought after by shoppers. Sixty-one percent of consumers say they are purchasing more private-label brands than they were two years ago, according to Daymon’s Private Brand Intelligence Report. These brands have contributed about $50 billion in margin to retailers since the start of 2017. Private label products are often seen by the consumer equal to or great in quality and priced lower than mainstream brands. In the long term, they also build customer loyalty, particularly when the private label offerings are unique.
As consumers seek out convenience as well as quality, private label items may be a way to build c-stores’ reputations as places to shop for ease and variety. By building a unique inventory of private label items, stores can differentiate themselves and become destinations for their food offerings, rather than simply a place to grab a soda and a pack of gum.