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2018 Ingredient Trends to Watch

November 24, 2017

Packaged Facts outlines the latest in culinary innovation.

Consumer palates are continuously looking for the next best taste treat, whether it’s pulling from the familiar or moving toward the more adventurous.

Cauliflower, eggs Benedict, macaroni and cheese, meatballs, olives, brown butter, figs, and Earl Grey tea among restaurant and food retail ingredients to watch in the New Year.

The latest wave of culinary innovation is cooking up inspiration and innovation based more on the familiar than the exotic or foreign, according to market research firm Packaged Facts in the new report “New Spins on Standards 2017: Culinary Trend Tracking Series.”

“One doesn’t have to look very far to find the ‘next sriracha’ or ‘matcha tea’,” said David Sprinkle, research director, Packaged Facts. “Culinary trends in 2018 will be inspired by familiar comforts from our childhoods but with artisanal, indulgent, and downright delicious reimaginings that satisfy the appetites of traditionalists and foodies alike.”

In New Spins on Standards 2017: Culinary Trend Tracking Series, Packaged Facts identifies more than a dozen foods, beverages, and ingredients that will trend in 2018 and beyond. Here are a few highlights:

Cauliflower at Center & Side – Thanks to such factors as the growing locavore trend and the increased cost of traditional protein, restaurants are designing more menu items that showcase fresh vegetables. Cauliflower benefits from its versatility as it can be prepared in many different ways, including global preps such as Indian curries and fritters and Italian pasta.

Eggs Benedict Trending Across Dayparts – Eggs Benedict have inspired newfangled dedicated restaurant concepts. Increased experimentation and multi-culturalism with omelets has opened the door for more Benedict experimentation, especially now that the breakfast, brunch, and late night (think breakfast all day) dayparts are getting truly creative attention.

Mac & Cheese Beyond the Box – This much-beloved comfort food is being adapted and re-adapted into many forms and fancies. Beyond menu presence as a signature entree or as a premium side dish, mac & cheese is being merchandised as a sociably shareable, Millennial-baiting food plate; as a fried bite-sized snack, bar food or alternative to French fries; and in mash-ups atop sandwiches or poured into poutine.

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Path Of Progress: Jerry Beaber

November 22, 2017

Jerry has worked at Harbor for 13 years starting in the Freezer/Cooler and eventually moving into a Buyer role. Jerry had great insight into what it has been like to work at Harbor in various different roles.

Q: What roles have you held at Harbor?

J: Freezer/Cooler Location Replenishment, Picker, Replenishment Buyer, I have purchased all categories; with the exception of tobacco and candy/snacks during my career with Harbor.


Q: How did you make the transition from where you started to where you are now?

J: I submitted my resume at the time of my hire knowing my 12 plus years of experience as a Purchasing Agent/Inventory Control Manager gave me the opportunity to continue working in the field. Entering at the ground level is never a bad experience, this allows you to learn the company from the bottom up, inside and out.


Q: How long have you been with Harbor?

J: 13 years


Q: As a long standing employee, what do you think is the most important quality to get your career started at Harbor?

J: Approaching your required duties with our customers in mind at all times, our customers success is Harbor’s success.

Marketing at the Pump

November 20, 2017

By utilizing a savvy forecourt strategy, which includes messaging on dispensers, c-stores can push up in-store sales.

By Howard Riell, Associate Editor

Media at the pump—from digital gas-pump television advertising to pump-nozzle promotions—enable c-stores to gain in-store lift, differentiate their brands, build customer loyalty and even take food orders.

Advances in technology continue to draw customers into stores. For example, Gilbarco’s Applause TV promotes retailer-specific products and services with large color screens in the gas pump. It’s a turnkey digital marketing solution designed to entertain and engage customers while driving them into the store.

Customers can also select from a condensed food-ordering menu and pick up their items inside. The company cites research showing that the medium drove customers into c-stores and generated additional purchases with up to a 39% increase on promoted items.

“Getting the gas customer, both four-wheel guests and professional drivers, from the pump into the store presents a huge opportunity for retailers,” said Mike Rodgers, senior vice president, chief strategy and information officer for Pilot Flying J Travel Centers in Knoxville, Tenn. “The four-wheel guest is less likely to enter the store than professional drivers.”

Operating stores and travel centers nationwide, Pilot Flying J uses interactive technology built into the pumps that can interface with the personal devices of its guests. This presents what executives view as a tremendous opportunity to drive traffic into the store.

“That said,” Rodgers added, “the marketing needs to be relevant and timely to the individual guests. At Pilot Flying J, we see significant innovation opportunities in this area.” This new technology offers the opportunity to deliver directly to the consumer, both on the gas and diesel sides of the business, through its app.

Tyler Tanaka, Pilot Flying J’s director of digital innovation, lauded Convenience Store Decisions’ 2017 Chain of the Year award recipient, Sheetz, for doing a nice job with its forecourts. “Good creative, and (it is) changed by daypart and season.” The biggest mistake that Pilot Flying J’s management sees convenience stores making with forecourt marketing is that marketing initiatives are not dynamic enough to really grab the attention of the consumer, he said

“In the near-future,” Rodgers said, “we believe personalization via interface with the consumer through app and beacon technology will have a large influence on forecourt marketing.” In addition, he sees auto start pumps activated by the car itself playing a role. “Connected vehicles with apps built into the dash from the factory, personalizing the messages at the pump with relevant ads and content will help.”

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When It Comes to Protein, North Americans Still Flock to Meat

November 17, 2017

When it comes to protein, nearly half of consumers eat a form of protein with every meal. For one-fifth of consumers in both the U.S. and Canada, plant-based proteins like legumes, seeds and nuts are among their preferred sources of protein. However, animal protein from meat, such as chicken, beef, turkey, pork and seafood, ranks first, which aligns with the fact that consumers in both countries spend more than half of their protein dollars on animal protein.

In fact, many consumers associate eating animal protein with being healthy. According to a recent consumer survey in the U.S. and Canada, many of those surveyed believe unprocessed meat is good for you, and more than a third say people who don’t consume animal proteins are missing out on certain nutrients.

Aside from the perceived health benefits, retailers and meat producers also need to understand how the price tag affects consumption. This is particularly important when prices fluctuate. Looking back to the first quarter of 2017 in the U.S., fresh meat was one of the top categories contributing to price deflation, or the reduction of general prices in the economy. Dollars sales declined (with exception of turkey and lamb sales in Canada), while volume sales continue to rise. This indicates that consumers are capitalizing on lower prices to satisfy their animal protein preferences.

Americans’ Purchase Behavior for Animal Protein

In the U.S., overall dollar growth for fresh meat categories declined 2% in the latest 52 weeks ended July 1, 2017, while volume rose 2%. Volume sales of fresh beef and turkey increased 6% and 1%, respectively. Chicken consumption remained flat, while consumption of pork and lamb declined in volume (down 3% and 2%, respectively). Fresh seafood, a top contributor to inflation, declined 2% in overall volume, despite dollar growth within prepared crustaceans (5%), prepared fish (4%) and shrimp (3%).

Regardless of pricing pressures, Americans’ growing focus on transparency indicate significant growth opportunities for products with healthy attributes. Within the lunch meat category, for example, products that are antibiotic and hormone free, as well as those with no artificial preservatives, are driving significant volume, according to Nielsen Product Insider, powered by Label Insight.

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Nisqually Frederickson Opening

November 16, 2017

Last week the new Nisqually Frederickson store had it’s grand opening. Harbor has been assisting the store during its build to get ready for customers. See photos of the store in progress, from ground breaking to opening, and how Harbor helped them get ready for opening.

The ground breaking for the Nisqually Frederickson store took place in April 2017.

During the building process, the Harbor Store Solutions team helped out with setting the store from getting the shelving in place to merchandising and filling those shelves with products, hard hats and all!

The Store Solutions Team did an excellent job getting the store ready for customers, and had a fun time doing it!

The grand opening for the Nisqually Frederickson took place on November 6th, 2017. Harbor team members attended to celebrate the opening of this great new store.

The new store had a strategic layout that will catch customer’s attention. Check it out!

Congratulations on the Grand Opening!

Path Of Progress: Kristi Alcorn

November 15, 2017

Kristi has worked for Harbor since 2013. Kristi began in the Warehouse working as an Order Selector, and from there has worked 5 different positions. As someone who has worked both in the Warehouse and the Corporate Office, Kristi had great information to share about what it’s like to get your career started at Harbor.

Q: What roles have you held at Harbor?

K: I started in the Warehouse as an Order Selector. From there I have been a Case Picker, Accounts Payable Clerk, Payroll Administrator, and currently I am transitioning to a Staff Accountant.


Q: How did you make the transition from where you started to where you are now?

K: Honestly, I didn’t think I would be at Harbor long. I thought it was going to be a place to have an income wile I looked for something else to do. I worked hard and challenged myself every day. The opportunity presented itself to apply for the Accounts Payable Position. At first it was a hard transition. Running around to sitting down all day was hard for me. I went into my position with an open mind and took everything in. I wanted to learn more, do more, and I asked for more. now I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.


Q: How long have you been with Harbor?

K: 5 years in January 2018.


Q: Any advice for advancing your career at Harbor?

K: Challenge yourself every day, ask questions and as the saying goes ‘fake it until you make it’. Believing in yourself and gaining the confidence can help you get where you want to be.


Q: As a long standing employee, what do you think is the most important quality to have to get your career started at Harbor?

K: Things are constantly changing at Harbor. I would say staying open minded and taking on the challenges that come your way.

Pizza, Roller Grill Satisfy Profits

November 13, 2017

Pizza and roller grill sales are growing and, with the continual innovation of new and exciting products, are expected to continue their upward climb in the coming years.

By Marilyn Odesser-Torpey, Associate Editor

Finding the expected might seem boring for some, but many convenience store customers come in craving a hot dog or sausage served sizzling from the roller grill or a just-from-the-oven slice of pizza with their favorite toppings.

Despite the rise and popularity of made-to-order hot and cold sandwiches on c-store menus, hot dogs, corn dogs, taquitos and other roller grill items are still carried by 71% of convenience stores and are among the top five sellers in the overall foodservice category, said Tim Powell, vice president and senior analyst at Q1 Consulting LLC, a Chicago-based business research, strategy, planning and management firm.

“Retailers offering prepared foods reported that 22% of their sales come from roller grill items,” Powell quoted from a research study conducted by Q1 last year.

Pizza is also a top five c-store seller, carried by 47% of operators.

Portability was one reason why consumers in the Q1 survey choose roller grill items and pizza when looking for an on-the-go meal or snack. Sixty-five percent of respondents said that roller grill items travel the best (or are most portable in their current packaging). Forty-five percent said the same for pizza.

Value is another sales booster for prepared foods such as pizza and roller grill items. Half of the survey respondents said that the most effective promotions for driving prepared foods at c-stores are free samples and price discounts. Coupons (23%) and combos (17%) can also positively impact sales.

Over the next three to five years, sales of foods that fit on the roller grill are expected to grow by 10%, Powell pointed out. Pizza sales are forecasted to increase by 12% over that same period.

Although pizza and subs are usually the strongest foodservice draws for Pump-N-Pantry, a Montrose, Pa.-based chain which has 15 stores over six counties in the northeastern part of the Keystone State, Wade Robinson, the company’s food service supervisor/digital marketing manager, discovered last August how effective targeted promotion can be to boosting roller grill sales.

“We ran a sales contest in our stores in conjunction with our local supplier, Kunzler, and achieved an increase of 45% in roller grill sales over the same time the prior year,” Robinson said. “One small store that usually doesn’t sell much saw a more than 200% increase in roller grill sales.”

During the promotion the roller grill items were sold at full price. Robinson noted that the contest “energized” the staff because they could clearly see the results of paying attention to the roller grill and keeping it clean and full at all times.

“It showed them that roller grill can still be an important part of the stores’ foodservice sales,” he explained. “I definitely want to do this contest again.”

At any given time the roller grills, which are in 14 of the Pump-N-Pantry stores, feature 5:1 franks, a breakfast sausage and another kind of sausage such as hickory-smoked Bahama Mamas, jalapeño and cheddar or bacon and cheddar. Roundup grills are used in the stores because they don’t have “rollers” which can dry out the food. The Roundup components slide up and down, allowing the hot dogs to be basted with their own juices, Robinson explained.

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Baked Goods Can Lead to Sweet Success

November 10, 2017

Baked confections offer a unique point of differentiation—or a platform to build a business from scratch.

Although limited-service restaurant operators usually offer at least one sweet baked item on their menus, these goodies are not always featured prominently. Even at some bakery-cafés, they can be found near the bottom of the menu.

Nonetheless, these items—cookies, cakes, pies, breakfast pastries, and the like—don’t need to be an afterthought. Being creative with them, including their size and ingredients, can entice consumers who are seeking to be a bit more indulgent with meals and snacks.

“They are as important as any other menu category,” says Jesse Gideon, executive chef and chief operating officer at Atlanta-based Fresh to Order. The items should align with an operator’s “core concepts,” he adds, which in the case of Fresh to Order includes using all-natural ingredients.

At the same time, offering tasty sweet baked goods helps keep purchases in-house, rather than forcing a customer to go elsewhere for a dessert item or snack.

“The ability to make a [dining] experience a complete one in our four walls and not have a guest make an additional trip to complete their meal expectations is extremely important for us,” Gideon says.

Sweet baked goods “are pretty reliable items and appeal to a large number of people,” says Maeve Webster, president of Menu Matters, a Vermont-based foodservice consultancy. Cookies, brownies, and bars are fan favorites due to taste and portability, making them the most populous baked sweets in the limited-service space.

Baked goods have long been part of the quick-service universe. Cookies and brownies alternately appear and disappear from menus, and it’s been a quarter-century since McDonald’s switched its fried apple pie dessert to a baked product. Overall, baked items in limited-service restaurants have grown 8 percent over the past two years, according to market research firm Euromonitor, but sweet baked product sales have been flat, according to Datassential, another market researcher.

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Candy And Snack Trends for 2018

November 8, 2017

By: Melissa Molnar, Digital Marketing Specialist

The candy and snack aisles are staples in any C-store, so how can you make your aisles stand out from the competition? Staying on top of snacking trends is a great way to differentiate your stock of these products. Harbor’s Category Manager for Candy & Snacks, Angela, recently attended NACS and shared what is happening in this category. The big trends impacting candy & snacks in 2018 are spicy and sweet, clean label, and surprise egg collectibles.

The spicy and hot candy trend began with Hot Tamales, last year Butterfinger released spicy cups, and the spicy trend is continuing in 2018. Palettes are continuously changing in the United States, and currently spicy foods are what’s hot. Customers looking to add some heat to their candy will welcome products like new Skittles Sweet Heat that add a kick to a classic candy. Skittles Spicy Sweet are available through Harbor in the December Retail Solutions book for pre-order.



Collectibles have been a huge trend over the last two years for kids, and now this trend is coming to a candy aisle near you. Both Kinder and Bazooka have begun offering surprise egg candies. They contain a toy, carefully sealed of course, and a delicious chocolate treat for both kids and adults to enjoy. Bazooka Toy Surprise also has Frozen, Peppa Pig and Star Wars options. Kinder Surprise Eggs and Bazooka Toy Surprise are perfect for the customer with a sweet tooth looking to add some fun to their candy consumption!



Clean-label was a popular trend in 2017, and this trend will still be important in 2018. Customers are constantly seeking healthier options for their snacks, are more aware of their calorie counts, and the less ingredients in a product the better. Classic snacks like potato chips have become healthier with Kettle Brand Chips, plus these are gluten free. For customers looking to snack on the go, Sahale Bars and Nature Valley XL Protein are easy to transport and are full of healthy flavors. Healthy offerings will keep regular customers happy and bring new customers into your store.


Spicy & Sweet, Clean Label and Surprise Egg Collectibles are just some of the most exciting things happening in the convenience store candy and snack aisles. Harbor currently has many offerings that fall into these categories, and can help you get the best product selection into your store for your customers.

Path Of Progress: Eric Luken

November 8, 2017

Eric started at Harbor 13 years ago as a Merchandiser. Since then has has worked in various roles which led him to his current position of Creative Manager.

Q: What roles have you held at Harbor?

E: I was hired as a Merchandiser (Store Solutions today). I did that for about a year and a half. I was then asked if I was interested in working as a buyer in the Purchasing Department. I had no experience in this area, however I thought it would be interesting and gave it a shot. After accepting the position I worked buying HABA & GM for Harbor for about 6 months. My only claim to fame is bringing in a little product called 5-Hour Energy, before energy shots and drinks were even a thing. It soon came to the attention of the powers that be that I had a design background and was asked if I would be interested in starting our Planogram program (Merchandising Solutions). This was much more of a job that I was suited for, so I jumped all over the opportunity. Planograms soon ballooned into more graphics projects and this was really the birth of Marketing at Harbor. Harbor was undeniably growing and needed to evolve. Today I stand as the Creative Manager and I’m very proud of how far not only Marketing, but Harbor has come during my time here.

Q: How did you make the transition from where you started to where you are now?

E: My transitions within Harbor have been a little unconventional, because the path from Merchandiser to Creative Manager might not seem like a logical path. Hard work opened up opportunities for me that might not have come otherwise. In the end I’m doing a job that I love and Harbor is getting the most out of me as a team member because of it.


Q: How long have you been with Harbor?

E: It will be 14 years in April.


Q: Any advice for advancing your career at Harbor?

E: My advice for anyone looking to advance at Harbor is to GET NOTICED! Simply work hard, have a good attitude and show how eager you are to learn new things. If you do that, then people WILL notice and good things will happen for you!


Q: As a long standing employee, what do you think is the most important quality to have to get your career started at Harbor?

E: In one word? I would have to say ‘Attitude’. Show up on time ready to work. Do your work well, and do it with a good attitude.