Think Global, Eat Local

University of 7-Eleven® Traveling Food Show Comes to Town, Cuban-Style Ham Sandwich with Mojo Marinade … Guava & Cheese Fiesta Squares … Asian Rollers … Energy Slurpee® Drinks

March 07, 2008 // Franchising.com // Orlando, FL, - Hundreds of eager "students" will converge on the Orange County Convention Center when the University of 7-Eleven® (USE) brings its traveling food and beverage show to town Wednesday, March 5. 7-Eleven® franchisees, store operators and field staff from throughout the Sunshine State will attend the Orlando USE, the second of eight events planned across the United States and Canada.

Besides brand new items like Asian Rollers and iced coffee, new twists on national mainstays like Big Bite® hot dogs, Go-Go Taquitos® and Slurpee® beverages, USE attendees will sample some local flavor, as area chefs and bakers have created specialties to appeal specifically to Florida taste buds. At the Orlando show, that means fresh-baked pastries with guava and pineapple, tropical fruit cups and new versions of its popular grilled Cuban sandwiches.

Regional fresh foods and baked goods are as diverse as the customers of 7-Eleven. At the Ontario, Calif., event in February, visitors sampled items that appeal to regional preferences, like grilled Slim Jim Sizzle Sticks, Chicken Pesto Croissants and Burger Sliders. Upcoming USEs are creating regional specialties, including cheesecake donuts and hot entrees at the Northeast event in Atlantic City; hot soups and maple coffee rolls will be served at the Great Lakes conference in Schaumberg, Ill.; blackberry Danish and Tillamook jerky in Portland, Ore.; and steak & egg burritos and carnitas pitas for the show in Denver.

"Fresh foods are one of the fastest-growing areas of our business," said Dennis Phelps, 7-Eleven vice president of fresh foods. "And with more than half of our customers buying a drink, beverages will always be big at 7-Eleven. The challenge is to continually push the bar and come up with new and different varieties that keep our selection fresh. We have developed the infrastructure to deliver fresh foods and baked goods to our stores every single day, and we've challenged our local fresh food and bakery suppliers to supplement our national menu by creating items that match local preferences."

So what can visitors expect at the Orlando USE? Here's just a taste:

National Products

Stop and Sip the Slurpee

On the national front, new Slurpee flavors and promotions are always center stage. This year is no different, as the iconic beverage even takes on a different name to reflect a new flavor platform. Slurpuccino, the first coffee-flavored Slurpee drink, will be hazelnut-flavored this fall. Energy (think Amp and Full Throttle) and candy taste-alike Slurpee beverages also will be sampled.

Coffee – Hot and Cold

Another new cold proprietary beverage to be sampled is the convenience store retailer's first foray into iced coffee. Two versions will be available for a first taste – Mocha and French Vanilla. Iced coffee is being tested in select Florida stores. In internal taste tests, both flavors have met with very enthusiastic reviews. On the hot beverage front, visitors can try reformulated blends of dark roast and decaf coffees, 100 percent Colombian coffee and a new Midnight Madness Hot Chocolate.

Asian Rollers

Ethnic foods continue to be the fastest-growing segment in fresh foods. The new Asian Rollers, akin to egg rolls, are the latest ethnic entry on the grill, and 7-Eleven's fresh foods team believes they will meet with the same success as its Go-Go Taquitos introduced a few years ago. Mild and spicy versions will be sampled – Orange Chicken and Szechuan Beef, respectively.

Focaccia Sandwiches

7-Eleven continues to up the ante on its fresh-made sandwiches. Artisan breads … and 7-Eleven worked with its bread supplier to create the soft Italian focaccia roll for its two new national sandwich offerings – Turkey Bacon Ranch Club with roasted turkey, Black Forest ham, applewood smoked bacon, Colby jack cheese, Hidden Valley Ranch spread and romaine lettuce; and Turkey Havarti, with roasted turkey, havarti dill cheese, roasted tomatoes, honey mustard sauce and romaine lettuce.

Hot on the Grill

New grill items include a Three-Cheese Bite, a sausage dog with cheddar, American and mozzarella cheeses; and one new Go-Go Fajitas – Chicken Fajita.

Local/Regional Products

Guava Love

7-Eleven's Latin customers in Florida love pastries, with almost 60 percent purchasing bakery items at least once a week. Guava, emerging as one of the newest super fruits, is a key ingredient in three of 7-Eleven's new bakery goods – Guava pound cake, Guava and Cheese Danish, and Guava and Cheese Fiesta Squares. An authentic Latin-American filled pastry, Fiesta Squares are also available in pineapple and strawberry-kiwi.

Super Cuban Sandwich

Cuban sandwiches, heated in a grill press, are hot sellers in Florida. 7-Eleven introduces its latest rendition of the sandwich favorite – Cuban-style ham on asiago cheese bread. Cuban-style ham is flavored with a Mojo marinade made with peppers, garlic and citrus flavorings, then layered with mild cheddar cheese, Romaine lettuce and a mustard-mayo deli blend. The asiago cheese bread is baked using a recipe developed exclusively for 7-Eleven.

Tropical Fruit Cups

Exotic fruits like mango, guava and pomegranate continue to gain in popularity for both taste and health benefits. Fresh fruit is one of 7-Eleven's best-kept secrets and an area of differentiation from other c-stores and fast-food outlets. Whole fruit, cut-up fruit in car-friendly cups, and fruit and cheese trays give consumers healthy snack and side dish options. The new tropical fruit cup has sliced mango, pineapple, cantaloupe and grapes.

Other fresh foods developed in the local Florida commissary kitchen include a Turkey BLT on Sun-Dried Tomato Bread, Turkey with Blue Cheese on Wheat Roll and a Chicken Cobb Salad.

7-Eleven also takes the opportunity to introduce emerging company initiatives at these once-a-year meetings. New uniforms will be modeled, more environmentally friendly packaging displayed and the benefits of the company's first co-branded credit card expounded. Rewards and benefits of the new 7-Eleven/Chase Visa card, which hits stores this month, will be explained by 7-Eleven and Chase Bank representatives. The cards offer rebates on purchases, redeemable as 7-Eleven reward cards that can be used the same as cash at any 7-Eleven store.

Besides a show-and-taste of its own proprietary items at the USEs, 7-Eleven invites its suppliers to showcase new and upcoming products, many of which are available only or first at 7-Eleven. Some of this exclusive merchandise includes: Breakfast- and cheeseburger-flavored Combos chips, Spike energy drink and Crème de Mint Altoids.

So how do 7-Eleven merchants stay on top of emerging trends? They track daily sales data that indicate customer buying habits; they study industry and supplier information, keep up with the news, research online and keep their eyes on the economic climate and demographic shifts.

"Whether our suppliers bring us a new item with the opportunity to be first to market with it, or we work together for months to develop a new product to address a consumer need that we've identified, everyone on the 7-Eleven product development team works hand in hand year-round with our suppliers," Phelps said.

"Not only does the USE provide a great learning experience for store personnel," he added, "it gives our vendors an opportunity to talk directly with those on the front sales lines and to showcase their wares that have, in some cases, been in development for years."

About 7‑Eleven, Inc.

7‑Eleven, Inc. is the premier name and largest chain in the convenience retailing industry. Based in Dallas, Texas, 7-Eleven operates, franchises or licenses approximately 7,500 7-Eleven® stores in North America. Globally, 7-Eleven operates, franchises or licenses close to 34,000 stores in 17 countries. During 2007, 7-Eleven stores worldwide generated total sales of more than $46.6 billion. Find out more online at www.7-Eleven.com.

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