the 2022 Best
Based on consumer ratings, 35 products new to convenience store shelves have been selected
for recognition in Convenience Store News’
26th annual program.
The Barebells Caramel-Cashew Protein Bar is an ideal low-calorie snack for anyone who wants to satisfy their chocolate craving. Great for pre- and post-workout, or at the office, it is a portable snack bar that meets the demand for taste that is low in sugar. The product features a blend of gooey caramel with chocolate inside and cashew pieces on the outside for a satisfying crunch. Our judges liked that the Barebells Caramel-Cashew Protein Bar offers 20 grams of protein per bar, and thought it tasted more like a chocolate bar.
Barebells Caramel-Cashew Protein Bar,
Vitamin Well USA
Goose Island Tropical Beer Hug,
Goose Island Tropical Beer Hug provides adult drinkers with a big, bold imperial IPA that consumers typically could not get in c-stores. According to Anheuser-Busch (AB), imperial IPAs grew at 42 percent last year, and accounted for 42 percent of total IPA sales in 2021. The drink comes in eye-catching, value-sized cans with a high 9.9 percent ABV. The 19.2-ounce cans are gaining in popularity at c-stores as the single-serve choice for drinkers. Six-packs are also available. Goose Island Tropical Beer Hug achieved almost double the distribution and 1.3 times the return on sales of its leading competitor, AB noted in its entry.
The Hershey Co. took its bestseller, Reese’s Peanut
Butter Cups, and stuffed it with wavy potato chips.
The Reese’s Big Cup with Potato Chips is sweet, salty and crunchy, and got two thumbs up from the judges. They liked the rippled chips for the extra crunch, and thought the extra salt flavor was a plus. Increasingly, core brands are being offered as a snack or treat during the morning and afternoon when snackers are deciding between a sweet, savory, healthy or indulgent treat. Offering a fresh new product of a perennial favorite candy is the
way to go.
Reese’s Big Cup with Potato Chips,
The Hershey Co.
Extra Refreshers Fruit Mix, Mars Wrigley
Starburst Airs take the gummy trend to a whole new level by giving consumers a unique, aerated texture that makes for a new kind of gummy experience. “The appealing fluffy marshmallow texture makes you want to finish the bag,” one judge remarked. As gummies rise in popularity and shoppers look for more options, these soft pillows bring a combination of fan-favorite infused flavors that are already familiar to Starburst lovers. Judges liked the familiarity of the packaging. Their favorite Starburst Airs flavor was the classic lemon.
Starburst Airs Gummies, Mars Wrigley
Catering to Lindt fans, chocolate lovers and plant-based enthusiasts alike, Lindt & Sprüngli created Lindt Classic Recipe OatMilk Chocolate Bars. In addition to being non-dairy, the bars are plant-based and made with gluten-free oats. This is truly an innovative chocolate product without compromising taste. Two varieties are available: Lindt Classic Recipe OatMilk Chocolate and Lindt Classic Recipe OatMilk Salted Caramel, which adds crunchy salted caramel pieces. The 3.5-ounce bars were a hit with judges, who commented that they are “super-creamy” and had no aftertaste. Judges preferred the straight Chocolate option.
Lindt Classic Recipe OatMilk Chocolate Bars, Lindt & Sprüngli USA
Mad Tasty created an all-natural, refreshing sparkling water beverage with Yuzu Citrus, a mandarin fruit with a lemon-lime profile. This plant-based vegan beverage contains 20 milligrams of broad-spectrum hemp extract, and offers less than 15 calories a can. Mad Tasty Pure Sparkling Water Yuzu Citrus also has zero sugar and is gluten free. Judges liked its refreshing taste and the fact that it had no aftertaste. They called it “balancing,” and thought the packaging was zippy.
Mad Tasty Pure Sparkling Water Yuzu Citrus, Mad Tasty LLC
Forth CBD Vape Pens are prefilled and disposable for customers on the go. They are made with 150 milligrams of high-quality isolate CBD, and their sleek and modern design gives adult consumers a smooth draw. There are very few affordable CBD vape options and flavors available in c-stores, so this CBD vape pen fills a niche. E-Alternative Solutions (EAS) found that taste is No. 1 in researching the product. By offering four new Forth Vape Pen flavor options — Mixed Berry, Grape, Menthol and Hemp — along with the original Mango and Mint flavors, EAS delivers a full line of CBD vape pen products to address current category trends.
Forth CBD Vape Pen, Mixed Berry,
VLN Cigarettes bring legitimacy to the emerging category of reduced nicotine content products. VLN is made with proprietary tobacco with 95 percent less nicotine than traditional cigarettes. The product is the first and only combustible tobacco cigarette to receive a Modified Risk Tobacco Product (MRTP) authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. VLN Cigarettes successfully launched in Chicagoland Circle K stores amid a wave of national and local media interest. Initial sales indicate a strong interest from adult smokers, the company stated. Our testers liked the familiar smoking experience from this new cigarette.
VLN Cigarettes, 22nd Century Group Inc.
Jack Daniel’s Country Cocktails are flavored malt beverages that bring the iconic, highly recognized Jack Daniel’s trademark to the convenience channel. With spirit brands growing in popularity, these beverages enable c-store retailers to leverage that trend, especially in states that do not allow spirit sales in convenience stores. Judges cited the outstanding, refreshing fruit flavors as the key factor in their choosing of this product. The eye-catching cans in the variety pack include Downhome Punch, Southern Peach, Watermelon Punch and Lynchburg Lemonade. The judges’ favorite was the Southern Peach variety, which they said was smooth with a hint of whiskey and no aftertaste.
FLAVORED MALT BEVERAGES
Jack Daniel’s Country Cocktails, Pabst Brewing Co.
Golden Dough Foods makes 2.7-ounce, full-sized, yeast-raised donuts with iconic flavors and innovative flavor mashups that cross a multitude of ethnic backgrounds. Golden Dough is bringing donut programs to stores that historically may not have been able to execute fresh-case programs. Food safety, labor and food waste have impacted the c-store industry and in the bakery category, Golden Dough has solved this issue with proprietary shelf-life technology, easy handling, and great packaging. Our judges loved the Mango Picante, a spicy mango flavored glazed donut. A close second was the Hot Honey Glazed Donut.
Yeast-Raised Donuts, Golden Dough Foods
Johnsonville’s Chorizo Sausage Strips are an innovative product made from sausage delivered in a versatile, bacon-like form. They can be served whole, wrapped around other ingredients, crumbled, chopped or minced. They experience less shrinkage, offer 9 grams of protein per serving, have less fat than USDA data for bacon per serving, and contain 30 percent less sodium than USDA data for traditional bacon brands. The sausage strips are keto and paleo friendly, and have no artificial flavors or colors, no corn syrup, no gluten and no MSG. The judges gave this product five stars for flavor and innovation, and kudos for its low fat content.
FOODSERVICE: BASE INGREDIENTS
Chorizo Sausage Strips, Johnsonville
The grab-and-go 8-inch Egg & Sausage Cheese Frozen Pizza from UNO Foods provides morning commuters with a delicious and satisfying egg-based breakfast. The traditional thin-crust style pizza is hand stretched, par-baked and then topped with a white Alfredo sauce, a blend of whole milk mozzarella and yellow cheddar cheeses, scrambled eggs and breakfast-style sausage crumbles. Our judges liked the novelty of the pizza, and said the flavor combination was perfect and fresh tasting.
8-Inch Egg & Sausage Cheese Frozen Pizza, UNO Foods
Today’s c-store customers want new food options that are as exciting as they are diverse. SupHerb Farms Ready-to-Use Sauces create the premium experience of authentic “house-made” taste, but without the labor. They are fully prepped, ready to use, and available in convenient 1-pound pouches. Packed with globally inspired, farm fresh flavor, the sauces come in five on-trend SKUs: Ancho Orange, Creamy Ginger Pepper, Creamy Jalapeño Pesto, Creamy Piri, and Superfood Pesto. Our panelists liked the Ancho Orange sauce best, which features pureed peppers and sweet orange with a spicy kick.
SupHerb Farms Ready-to-Use Sauces, SupHerb Farms
Makers of plant-based meat alternatives are eyeing the c-store business as foodservice continues to grow in the channel. Crispy and crunchy on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside, plant-based Incogmeato Homestyle Chik’n Tenders taste and pull apart just like the real deal. The meat-free tenders are perfect as a standalone snack with a dip, added to a wrap as part of a lunch, or as a dinner/home meal replacement option. The product was tested alongside other brands of meat-free chicken tenders and received high marks for taste and moisture.
MorningStar Farms Incogmeato
Homestyle Chik’n Tenders, Kellogg’s
Quality of ingredients is key in a frozen chicken sandwich. This craveable Southern Style Chicken Sandwich from Tyson Foods features a soft brioche bun, breaded chicken, and notes of dill, onion and garlic. The portable, on-the-go option is individually butcher-wrapped, meets food safety demands, ensures lasting moisture and flavor, and can be easily heated in a microwave oven. The sandwich ships frozen and can be thawed and refrigerated for 14 days, which outlasts the typical shelf life and helps reduce waste. Our testers were pleasantly surprised with the flavor of the chicken and the combination of the breading and bun.
Southern Style Chicken Sandwich,
Chester’s Mac & Cheese recipe uses extra creamy cheddar cheese and cavatappi (corkscrew) noodles to create a taste that reminds customers of home. The new noodles make a perfect vehicle for the rich, cheesy sauce, creating an on-trend comfort food. Chester’s Mac & Cheese is one of five sides customers can choose from when ordering the brand’s world-famous fresh, fried chicken. Our judges said the Mac & Cheese was filling and they liked the cheesy sauce blend.
FOODSERVICE: SIDE DISH
Chester’s Mac & Cheese, Chester’s Chicken
With its innovative, differentiated packaging, Buck Shots energy shots pop off the shelf and deliver excellent margins to c-store operators. The judges loved the novelty packaging reminiscent of shotgun shells. Buck Shots’ functional benefits appeal to a wide class of fitness enthusiasts with ingredients that deliver more than energy, including AlphaSize, magnesium, L-theanine, N-acetyl-L-tyrosine and vitamin B12. The brand and packaging appeal to outdoor enthusiasts, bringing new users and occasions to the energy shot category.
HEALTH & BEAUTY CARE
Buck Shots, DAS Labs LLC dba
Ostrim Premium Chicken Snack Sticks are a healthier snack option made with premium chicken and a mild ranch flavoring. The meat sticks are high in protein, low in calories, contain no nitrates, and are gluten free. The colorful and well-labeled packaging is sure to attract health and fitness enthusiasts. Our testers liked the quality and texture of these better-for-you chicken sticks and their low fat content.
Ostrim Premium Chicken Snack
Sticks, Ranch, Protos Foods Inc.
Beam Suntory and The Boston Beer Co. worked together on a complimentary product to support Truly Hard Seltzer. Truly Vodka utilizes a strong brand name for another product and makes it relevant to a new consumer. It can be consumed on its own, as a traditional cocktail, or with Truly Hard Seltzer. Truly Vodka provides a trade-up opportunity for c-store retailers if coupled with a variety pack of Truly Hard Seltzer to increase basket rings. Judges lauded the innovation of the bold-flavored 30 percent ABV vodka, and liked all three flavors — Strawberry Lemonade, Pineapple Mango, and
Truly Vodka, Beam Suntory
Swisher Sweets “Life is Sweet” contest packaging provides an innovative way to engage adult consumers to enter a contest for the chance to win a grand prize of $100,000. Adult consumers can enter the contest by scanning the QR code found on the packaging or at the point-of-sale, and then uploading a photo or video with a caption answering the question: “How can Swisher Sweets make your life sweeter?” Complementing the addition of Leaf and BLK products this year, the limited-edition packaging encourages customers to come into the store, and helps expand the Swisher Sweets brand. Our testers particularly liked the value pricing of the BLK Smooth product and the easy draw of the tip.
OTHER TOBACCO PRODUCTS: CIGARS
Swisher Sweets “Life is Sweet”
Contest Packaging, Swisher
Black Buffalo ZERO tobacco-free dips are for customers looking for an alternative to traditional smokeless products. Containing no nicotine, Black Buffalo ZERO is made from green leaves and food-grade ingredients in small-batch runs in the United States. Black Buffalo Mint ZERO features a crisp blend of peppermint and spearmint with just a hint of sweet, and was the favorite variety amongst the judges. Other flavors include Blood Orange and Wintergreen.
OTHER TOBACCO PRODUCTS: SMOKELESS
Black Buffalo ZERO, Black Buffalo Inc.
Dr Pepper Zero Sugar introduces a one-of-a kind blend for its 23 signature flavors in a zero-sugar soda. Within the first year of the launch, driven by the flagship Dr Pepper Original, Dr Pepper Zero Sugar catapulted to the No. 2 zero sugar platform nationally, according to its maker. The platform was designed for, and has successfully attracted, younger millennials and Hispanic consumers who are looking for flavor variety in carbonated soft drinks without the sugar. The packaging is easy to read and communicates the benefits of zero sugar well.
PACKAGED BEVERAGES: CARBONATED SOFT DRINKS
Dr Pepper Zero Sugar, Keurig Dr Pepper
Minute Maid Aguas Frescas launched in 16-ounce cans in March 2022, disrupting expectations for on-the-go refreshment with a beloved, Latin American-inspired juice drink. Available in three global-inspired, bold and refreshing flavors — Strawberry, Mango and Hibiscus — Minute Maid Aguas Frescas utilize real fruit juice, water and other ingredients to deliver a subtly sweet taste in a caffeine-free and non-carbonated beverage. Our judges sampled all three flavors and Hibiscus was their favorite. Approximately 80 percent of Minute Maid Aguas Frescas’ volume is incremental to the juice drinks category, coming from new consumers, the maker noted.
PACKAGED BEVERAGES: JUICE DRINKS
Minute Maid Aguas Frescas,
The Coca-Cola Co.
The AMIN.O. Energy Sparkling Drink offers a combination of 5 grams of amino acids, 100 milligrams of caffeine from natural sources, and electrolytes to support performance, endurance, and active living. The Orange Blast beverage comes in an attractive sleek, narrow can. Our judges liked the crispness of the orange flavor, and remarked that it did not taste like an energy drink. This is a good alternative to coffee in the morning or for a midday boost.
PACKAGED BEVERAGES: ENERGY DRINKS
AMIN.O. Energy Sparkling Drink,
Glanbia Performance Nutrition NA
Community Coffee created a new ready-to-drink (RTD) coffee option for people who grab and go. The iced latte comes in a 13.7-ounce, eye-catching bottle and is shelf-stable. Flavors tested by the judges were Mocha White Chocolate and Vanilla Waffle Cone. Both feature all-natural flavoring and no artificial sweeteners. Our testers preferred the Mocha flavor, and liked the no-fridge option. According to the company, RTD coffees are the fastest-growing category in coffee, and iced lattes represent the largest segment at 44.8 percent of RTD beverages.
PACKAGED BEVERAGES: RTD COFFEE DRINKS
Iced Latte, Community Coffee
Pobble, short for popping bubbles, is a vegan and gluten-free fruit tea with bubbles that burst in your mouth. This bubble tea is made using real fruit juice, is low in caffeine and packed with vitamins. Our testers liked the Mixed Berries Hibiscus flavor best, and said it was a refreshing twist on tea. They also liked the generously sized 17.3-ounce can.
PACKAGED BEVERAGES: RTD TEA
Pobble Bursting Bubble Tea, Mixed Berries Hibiscus, DD&B Solutions LLC
Designer Wellness Protein Smoothies are travel friendly, better-for-you, single-serve pouch smoothies. Created with the convenience channel in mind, the smoothies are delicious snack alternatives to other high-sugar, empty-calorie options. They come in at 120 calories per pack and deliver twice the protein (12 grams) as sugar (only 6 grams and zero added). The unique single-serve pouch is shelf-stable until opened and has a resealable cap. Three mainstream flavors — mixed berry, strawberry banana and tropical — were tested, and the judges liked the taste of the strawberry banana best.
PACKAGED BEVERAGES: OTHER
Designer Wellness Protein Smoothie,
Designer Wellness Co.
Main Avenue Creamery House-Made Ice Cream provides a super-premium ice cream experience at a good price. The private label product from United Dairy Farmers, an Ohio-based convenience store chain, contains natural ingredients such as cream, milk, eggs and sugar cane, and has no artificial stabilizers. The pint of Black Raspberries & Chips was the standout flavor among the judges, who also liked the design of the pint container and felt it indicated a super-premium product.
PACKAGED ICE CREAM
Main Avenue Creamery House-Made Ice Cream, United Dairy Farmers
Our Specialty Treat Shop Brownie Dessert Pizza Slices come in two varieties and are prepackaged in visually appealing single-serve portions. The Peanut Butter Cup Brownie Dessert Pizza is a rich, fudgy brownie base baked with creamy Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and finished with an icing drizzle. The Chocolate Chip Brownie Dessert Pizza is a slice of chewy fudge brownie pizza containing Hershey’s chocolate chip pieces, topped with a ganache drizzle and elegant chocolate curls. The carefully conceived cobranding partnership between Rich Products and The Hershey Co. is a win-win. Both varieties were deemed “delicious” and resulted in an even split of preference among the consumer panel.
PACKAGED SWEET SNACKS
Our Specialty Treat Shop Brownie Dessert Pizza Slices, Rich Products Corp.
Beer Nuts Original Bar Mix is a craft snack mix with an obvious complement to beverages. The product is made with savory flavored peanuts, corn nuggets, pretzels and sesame sticks. Available in a sharing size bag or an individual beer-shaped bag, Beer Nuts Original Bar Mix has instant brand recognition. Our judges loved the beer-shaped bag and the different crunchy textures of this snack mix.
SALTY SNACKS: NUTS & SEEDS
Beer Nuts Original Bar Mix, Beer Nuts Inc.
ACT II is the No. 1 value brand in microwave popcorn, according to Conagra Brands. So, it made sense to jump into the ready-to-eat popcorn market with ACT II Butter Lovers Popcorn. The product delivers a bold, buttery flavor. Our testers liked the texture and the familiarity of the packaging. This popcorn is great for movie night, travel, or as an office snack.
ACT II Butter Lovers Popcorn, Conagra Brands
Cheez-It original crackers are a tried-and-true snack time classic. Now, there is Cheez-It Puff’d, a puffy and airy Cheez-It transformation. The packaging is familiar, but the product is new and while they are still square and cheesy, Cheez-It Puff’d have a pillowlike appearance and a different crunch. Our judges enjoyed both the Double Cheese and White Cheddar flavors, but liked the Double Cheese best. According to the maker, Cheez-It Puff’d is a great basket builder when top-selling core items are placed in secondary locations, such as in the front-end transaction area and near the foodservice and fountain beverage areas.
SALTY SNACKS: OVERALL
Cheez-It Puff’d, Kellogg’s
Boasting many flavor choices, BuzzBallz are made for a party. With 15 percent alcohol packed into a tennis ball-sized, nifty globe container, the product is a clever novelty. The beverages go down smooth, and our judges awarded BuzzBallz five stars for packaging creativity. The panel liked the Espresso Martini variety most.
BuzzBallz Espresso Martini,
Southern Champion/BuzzBallz LLC
The TruShot 2.0 Mobile Dispensing Cleaning System keeps c-store crews moving with a genius spray-and-wipe cleaning system that provides optimized dilution delivery and ensures Occupational Safety and Health Administration compliance with prelabeled cartridges. Just snap the cartridges into the bottom of a single water-filled trigger bottle and clean everything from the counters to the restrooms by switching out the cartridges. Over the life of the TruShot trigger bottle, using the cartridges will result in at least a 93 percent reduction in the use of plastic vs. using equivalent ready-to-use quart bottles with sprayers, according to the maker. Our testers were impressed by the different cartridge options and the easy handling of the trigger container.
TruShot 2.0 Mobile Dispensing
Cleaning System, Phoenix Research Industries/S.C. Johnson
Now in its 26th year, the Convenience Store News Best New Products Awards program recognizes the marketers that introduce the most innovative, high-quality products into the convenience channel that meet consumers' evolving needs and fit a convenience store's value proposition. A panel of consumers judged submitted products on value, convenience, appearance and packaging, along with attributes such as taste and ingredients for food items. Based on their ratings, 35 products new to convenience store shelves have been selected
for recognition in this year's competition.
The 2022 Best New Products Awards winners are:
The unique combination of flavors in the Extra Refreshers Fruit Mix offers more variety to gum consumers. The shape of the gum, which looks like a pillow, distinguishes the product. And its chunky box is easy to open and close, making the product great for sharing. As consumer trends and preferences shift, Extra Refreshers Fruit Mix provides a differentiated gum-chewing experience
with long-lasting flavors.