When walking around the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) show in Atlanta, one can easily pass booths featuring off-kilter beef jerky, energy drinks, e-cigarettes, fried everything. But a growler-fill station for craft beer?
While growlers are nothing too new to the craft beer industry, at this particular show, where convenience items are the norm, the booth stood out in the house otherwise reserved mostly for shameless gluttony and show girls.
In the video above, John O’Connell, co-founder of The Growler Station, explains what he’s doing at this kind of show. While Duane Reade in New York — which, while technically a drug store, tries to serve as Manhattan’s version of the corner store — is an example of a C-store chain that has already offered growler fills, it isn’t exactly a common practice.
Where it’s legal, growler fills are typically reserved for local brewpubs and the occasional liquor store. But O’Connell said that’s starting to change — he’s in negotiations with Duane Reade, Circle K and Walgreens. A few C-store chains in upstate New York have become well-known as growler fill stops, as well.
So a show like NACS, O’Connell said, provides an ideal venue for selling what can be a complex system. It can bring life to a concept that, for some, may be incomprehensible.
“Our equipment isn’t something we can bring to a meeting at one of their corporate headquarters,” O’Connell said.
At the NACS show, C-store representatives were able to see The Growler Station, touch it, play around with it, look at it and understand how it works. Its presence at the show gives these representatives a tangible understanding of the system and a way to visualize how it would look in their respective store. O’Connell said that this tangible understanding via demonstration easily trumps any sales pitch alongside a powerpoint or a video.
He also said that growlers can draw nontraditional C-store consumers. They have the ability to bring a consumer into a C-store when their original intention was to simply pump some gas and leave. He said that because of this factor, the system could lead to more traffic for C-store owners. The store may still have the off-kilter beef jerky and the energy drinks, but it also offers something new, interesting and on-trend.
“You’re not a me-too operation,” O’Connell said. “You can differentiate yourself from your competition.”