7-Eleven is in the middle of rolling out a modernized coffee program aimed at boosting its reputation as a food and drink destination.
As of mid July, the program had debuted in close to 5,000 of the company’s more than 13,000 North American locations. And the changes are significant. Whereas the company’s old coffee program focused on bulk dispensers with one or two specialty machines, the new setup includes new bean-to-cup coffee machines, specialty machines and iced coffee options along with numerous flavorings to help shoppers personalize their drinks.
The coffee service enhancements — part of a chain wide push to improve and expand fresh foods and beverages at 7-Eleven stores — should be in all eligible stores by the end of 2025, Managing Executive Officer and CFO Yoshimichi Maruyama said during its fiscal first quarter earnings call.
One of the recently updated stores is a 7-Eleven on Route 1 in Laurel, Maryland. C-Store Dive stopped by the location late last month to get a closer look at the new program as c-stores across the country are freshening up their coffee offerings.
Plenty of options
Near the back of the store, just beside a cooler full of fresh grab-and-go options, is the coffee service area. The space features coffee machines on one side with mix-ins available across the aisle.
Customers who are in a hurry can pick from a variety of coffee options in bulk dispensers. These range from the 7-House blend and decaf options to such flavors as hazelnut, French vanilla and pumpkin. The specialty Clyde’s Blend, part of a Pac-Man collaboration with Bandai Namco, is available as well, as are the 7-Breakfast and Colombia 7-Reserve blends.
And that’s just the first part of what’s on offer. For those interested in a more artisanal coffee experience, there are also many specialty options available.
A bean-to-cup Franke A800 machine offers three different options — house blend, 100% Colombian beans and Brazilian — in either hot or iced varieties. Franke’s site touts that this machine uses “cafe-style extraction techniques” to improve the final product.
For those whose tastes runs more toward combined coffee and milk products, a Melitta Cafina CT8 machine has many of the most popular options on offer. Customers can order a hot or iced latte, cappuccino or mocha, or can opt for a flat white, Americano, cafe con leche or a double espresso shot.
The machine has a throughput of up to 200 drinks per hour.
7-Eleven has also rolled out its pumpkin spice latte, a perennial autumn offering. On the far left of the setup, a Curtis Primo cappuccino machine features branding and a dedicated spigot for the specialty flavor, along with an array of other options, like caramel macchiato, white chocolate caramel, chai tea latte and even hot cocoa.
On the far end of the setup, a Bunn Nitron cold draft machine offers two other options — cold brew coffee and nitro cold brew coffee.
The cold brew market has been booming, and is expected to see more than 26% annualized growth through 2025 globally, with more than half of that expansion coming from North America, according to data from market research company Technavio.
Nitro-infused coffee, meanwhile, is still expected to see roughly 20% annualized growth through 2030, according to market research firm Prescient & Strategic Intelligence.
Aside from being a cold refreshment, part of the appeal of cold brew — and of nitro cold brew — could be the higher caffeine levels that come through in the brewing process. Dispensed beverages have been trending toward more caffeine-heavy picks lately, including both energy drinks and coffee offerings, according to experts.
Full flavor array
Once customers have poured their perfect cup of coffee, the decisions still don’t have to be over.
In addition to a wide array of sweeteners and creamers, the Laurel 7-Eleven offers several flavored syrups that can be added to the drink for an extra kick.
Options include honey for an all-natural sweetener, along with hazelnut in regular and sugar-free options; French vanilla; and pumpkin spice, in accordance with the season.
Having a variety of sweeteners, creamers and flavors available is important, as only about 35% of coffee drinkers prefer their coffee without any add-ins, according to data from E-Imports, an espresso business solutions company.
With all these options, 7-Eleven’s updated coffee program addresses major shifts in what consumers now look for in the morning. Experts say that increasing quality expectations, more diversified tastes and generational shifts in coffee habits are all changing what a quality modern program needs to be.
“Each of these trends are leading toward changes across the landscape on their own,” said Tim Cox, marketing manager for Franke Coffee Systems Americas, in an earlier interview on broader c-store coffee trends. “However, in combination [they] make now the perfect time for c-stores and QSRs to re-examine their coffee programs or else risk getting left behind.”