Crunch Pak’s sliced apple snacks outperformed electronic cigarettes and beer pong supplies to take first place in Cool New Products voting at the National Association of Convenience Stores convention in Atlanta.

About 200 vendors representing the full range of convenience store products competed in the contest at the Oct. 5-8 conference, said Tony Freytag, national marketing director for Cashmere, Wash.-based Crunch Pak. Bar code scanners were used to cast votes.

“We had over 600 scans, the most NACS has ever recorded for a line of products,” Freytag said.

Crunch Pak had about eight products on display, among them Disney Garden Foodles. Ready Pac Foods’ Ready Snax fresh fruit parfaits polled second. The top 10 included two electronic cigarettes.

It’s a changing marketplace that enables produce snacks to compete well in a category that encompasses energy drinks, candy and tobacco, said Freytag.

Crunch Pak tops ‘cool’ new convenience products
Crunch Pak tops ‘cool’ new convenience products

“The convenience store industry is realizing that they’re going to broaden their assortment to include healthy snacks,” he said. “You’re seeing it already. Petroleum generates a lot of cash sales, but their margins continue to shrink. With fresh foods, if they can get inventory levels right to prevent shrinkage, you’ll see a higher margin for the individual operator and that’s key.

“(And) there is just a greater emphasis on healthy snacks. The more people see are available, the more they’ll partake.”

Sliced apple sales are up 34.5% so far this year for Crunch Pak overall — not just in convenience stores.

“Almost every week is a new record for us in terms of production and shipments,” Freytag said.

Sliced apples are a $120-million-a-year category. Crunch Pak has a 40% market share.

More than 22,000 attended the NACS convention. NACS represents more than 2,100 retail and 1,500 supplier member companies.