Wawa’s Private Practice Continues

Wawa, Pa.-based Wawa Inc. has some “private” news that isn’t all that private. For decades, the convenience chain has made no secret of its company-wide branded dairy program; its subsequent private-label beverages and its hoagies/sandwiches have been proudly featured as well. Then about three years ago, the company made a “strategic decision that we were going to get more exclusive with Wawa exclusives,” according to Gus Durso, director of category management for all of the chain’s packaged goods and beverages.
Most recently, it has ventured into snacks, nuts and candy.
The first snack attack
The opportunity for Wawa-branded snacks arose when “we saw we were selling a lot of two-for-a-dollar tube nuts for low profitability,” says Durso. So that line was introduced, and the Wawa line was brought in its place. The first phase of Wawa’s snack nuts included half-a-dozen SKUs of tube nuts, such as salted peanuts, cashews and almonds, as well as a rollout of the same nuts in larger stand-up bags.
“I will tell you we’re not selling as many of the tube nuts anymore,” Durso relays. “What happened was the consumer shifted over to the larger gusseted bags, so overall sales are trending up in package sizes. We’ve also had higher-than-expected increases in gross profit margins in the salty nut category, specifically.”
With the success it had in the first phase, Wawa is getting ready to launch Phase II of its snack nuts some time in November.
The chain has also recently rolled out a line of Wawa bagged candy in two segments, according to Durso. There are a number of SKUs that are “gummy-oriented,” he says, as well as a bagged line that includes nationally branded items, such as Tootsie Rolls, Goetze Caramels and Sunkist Fruit Gems.
Since this program began in the spring, “our overall bagged candy sales are up; we’re very happy with the result,” Durso maintains.
Like the snack nuts, the Wawa-branded bagged candy line will also have a Phase II, but right now no timeframe is set.
Overall, Durso confirms that “the salty snack and candy categories continue to grow each year for us; they are very strong.”
And the innovation is not all about private label. Wawa has recently partnered with some of its DSD manufacturers in the salty snack category to bring some exclusive branded programs to the chain. “Herr’s has been aggressive with helping us introduce both single-serve and large-package products in our stores and giving us 30-60 day exclusives,” adds Durso.
—By Renee M. Covino