What’s In Your Cooler?

What’s In Your Cooler?

By Angela Altass

Traditionally, consumers have headed to the cooler section of a convenience store to pick up a beverage to satisfy a thirst, says Michael Cronin, executive director, strategy and partnerships, The Great Canadian Meat Company. 

“That thirst is often accompanied by a hunger,” adds Cronin, “which is an ideal opportunity to offer a snack that is directly in front of them and can satisfy their hunger and increase the basket size.”

Deciding what items to stock in your store’s cooler section is important and should tie in with your customer demographic. Cronin points out that The Great Canadian Meat Company pepperoni and cheese, salami and cheese, or pepperoni sticks are satisfying options to offer customers who come into your store looking for a snack.


“Keep items in your cooler organized, highly visible and, most importantly, keep the inside of your cooler clean,” says Cronin. “Train your team to take advantage of the opportunity to bundle sell. Merchandise items, such as pepperoni and cheese snacks, with clear pricing near energy drinks and other cold beverages. Also, consider an additional in-store location near the cooler to merchandise shelf-stable meat snacks that are not required to be in the cooler to increase basket size and satisfy your customer’s cravings.”

Cooler size and location can play a role in deciding which products to display in them. Chris Soucie, director of sales and marketing, McCowan Design & Manufacturing, notes that some stores are appealing to the changing needs of the c-store customer by diversifying front counter offerings and incorporating small coolers closer to the check-out area. 

“You’ll see cold energy drink displays with little fridges built right into the front counters,” says Soucie. “Clients are asking us to incorporate energy drink coolers or grab-and-go style sandwich coolers and assorted beverage coolers into our pay point counter designs.”

Grocery staples, such as eggs or milk, are items for the cooler section that customers often look to quickly grab at a convenience store.

“Eggs are a staple in most households and an item that many people will go out to convenience stores to get between grocery shopping trips if they run out,” says Amanda Brittain, director of communications and marketing, British Columbia Egg Marketing Board. “By having eggs in your cooler section, you are encouraging customers to visit your store more often and put more in their baskets in each visit.”

The most popular eggs in Canada are the classic white egg, which Brittain recommends stocking in convenience store coolers.

“If you have room to stock more than the classic white egg, depending on where you are located, the next most popular egg is either free-range or organic,” says Brittain. “I’m sure store owners know their clientele well and will be able to pick the eggs their customers want to buy.”

Most customers are in a hurry to get home and make a nutritious, tasty dinner for their families, notes Brittain.

“If you merchandise the eggs with other quick dinner items, such as breads, fresh or frozen vegetables, or cheeses, customers will be able to whip up a quick omelette or frittata before getting the children to extra-curricular activities,” says Brittain. “Reach out to your local egg board for recipe and merchandising ideas.”

While traditional milk products are also staple grocery items that customers will be looking for in the cooler section, Murray Bodnar, national business development manager, Marsham International Food Brokers notes that the dairy alternative market is also booming. 

“Consumers are seeking plant-based beverages that are also high in protein with added benefits, such as vitamins, non-GMO, gluten-free, and vegan attributes,” says Bodnar. “We see opportunities in the refrigerated sections for take home consumption as well as grab-and-go single serve formats.”

When it comes to choosing the best coolers for your store, Chris Midbo, sales, marketing and new business development, Western Refrigeration, notes that standard beverages, such as soda, water and juice, work fine in a glass door unit.

“This can be either self-contained or a walk-in cooler,” says Midbo. “Customers will search these items out. A walk-in cooler that has doors that are 79 inches high are for maximum display with a great look and a high volume of items that can be displayed. Walk-in coolers will also give the site cold storage and fronting of the product on the shelves, which saves huge on labour and allows for a consistent good display. More specialized items with higher profits need to be placed in an open refrigerated unit, which enhances the impulse. This can be placed in a high traffic area. These are for drinks like smoothies, high end energy, kombucha and others.”

The obvious items to definitely have in stock in the cooler section are sodas, juice, water and energy drinks, states Midbo, adding, however, that there are more items to consider as well.

“There are also sandwiches, cheese, meat, veggies, plus the more specialty drinks,” says Midbo. “Try to work foodservice items into the cooler as well as more specialty drinks. These are often higher margin items and customers are looking for more and more foodservice in the convenience location. The placement of a cooler unit near the till area for impulse is also very successful.” 

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