7-Eleven, known for its neon-colored Slurpees and oversized sodas, is looking to show off its range by promoting some up-and-coming healthy snack brands at a subset of stores.
The convenience store chain on Tuesday will launch the second iteration of its Sips & Snacks initiative, a program intended to bring a different mix of products into 7-Eleven locations and provide potential launching pads for small and emerging food brands.
This year's batch includes 25 brands known well in the natural foods arena but not necessarily on the mainstream stage. Some of the products include Pescavore ahi tuna jerky strips; Quinn gluten-free pretzels; Outstanding Foods PigOut pigless pork rinds; Koia plant-based, vegan protein shakes; and Pop Zero algae oil popcorn.
7-Eleven said it will test-drive the products in 200 locations in the Los Angeles and San Diego metro areas. Depending on sales performance and customer feedback, the brands could be launched regionally or nationally, said Jack Stout, senior vice president of merchandising and demand chain for the Irving, Texas-based 7-Eleven.
"We want brands to understand that launching their products in 7-Eleven stores can help them build their business effectively beyond the grocery and natural channels," Stout told CNN Business. "They can compete in a narrower set in a small format retailer to intercept the on-the-go customer, scale quickly and drive profit."
More than 750 companies applied to pitch at 7-Eleven's annual emerging brand showcase that took place last fall, and 65 companies participated in the "show and taste" expo to be considered for the 2020 program. About one-third of the 25 companies selected for this year's program are owned by women, minorities or military veterans, according to 7-Eleven.
Thirty-one companies launched in the inaugural Sips & Snacks program in 2019. Of those, Perfect Bar protein bar and Roar organic electrolyte drink were added to the chain's national assortment.
The early stage brands help 7-Eleven respond to convenience store consumers' evolving tastes and dietary needs, Stout said, noting that customers are seeking functional beverages, high-protein snacks and healthy, immediate-consumption products.
7-Eleven operates or franchises more than 10,000 locations in North America.
—By Alicia Wallace, CNN Business