Casey’s: Known for pizza, donuts and biodiesel08/09/2019 |
By Bethany Baratta, ISA senior writer
In the Midwest, Casey’s General Stores might be known best for its made-fresh-daily offerings of pizza and donuts. But in the past few years, Casey’s has made its mark in the fuel category by expanding its offerings of biodiesel.
Nathaniel Doddridge, director of fuels for Casey’s, said the company was slower than other convenience stores to ramp up its promotion of biodiesel.
“When we got into biodiesel in 2007, we had a lot of customers who pushed back,” Doddridge said.
The company knew about the positive attributes of biodiesel; It’s a clean-burning fuel produced from soybeans, vegetable oils and animal fat. It provides engine lubricity and doesn’t decrease miles-per-gallon rates for its users.
But a small, vocal group of customers claimed that biodiesel was linked to poor engine performance. So, the company slowed its push of the biofuel to—in a sense—keep its customers happy.
Opportunity to add value
Other companies made offers to purchase Casey’s—most recently in 2010. That propelled the company to think more about their company and their brand.
“That propelled Casey’s to do things really, really quickly to demonstrate its value,” said Doddridge.
Still, Casey’s wasn’t sold on the idea that expanding fuel options was going to win over the small group of very loud customers who were opposed to biofuels.
When Doddridge started as the company’s fuel director in 2017, he looked at Casey’s fuel strategy. Slowing the push of biodiesel wasn’t helping the company gain any more customers, Doddridge said.
The company was selling 1 million gallons of blended biodiesel per month as of January 2017. They had to expand to keep the company competitive.
"We added biodiesel at every store in Iowa and Illinois. We went to B11 immediately, which was probably a little aggressive, but you have to be a little aggressive when shareholders are asking for stronger fuel performance,” he said.
It paid off. By June 2019, Casey’s was selling more than 9.3 million gallons of blended biodiesel per month as its fuel locations in the United States offering the product.
Keys to success
Doddridge said there were multiple strategies which contributed to the rise in biodiesel sales for the company.
First, he said, was the focus on pricing within the company. Doddridge’s one-man team has now expanded to 12, focusing on procurement, marketing and all aspects of fuel sales for the company with locations in 16 states.
Then, the company focused on training its corporate and store leadership on the benefits of biodiesel and how to effectively communicate those benefits to their customers. Casey’s has the facts to back up their argument for biodiesel. They have the studies from Cummins, Duramax and John Deere to back up engine performance up to B20 blends.
Education surrounding the proper maintenance of their biodiesel pumps has also created employee and customer buy-in to the product, Doddridge said.
“The customer is going to be right until we show them they’re not. If we’re not telling the customer what’s right and what they need to know about biodiesel, I have no choice but to assume that the customer is right,” Doddridge said.
These efforts have not only propelled sales of biodiesel but has helped carry the message about the positive attributes of biodiesel. For this reason, Casey’s General Stores received this year’s Eye on Biodiesel Impact Award from the National Biodiesel Board.
“We can still do more to show our customer that biodiesel is a safe product,” Doddridge said. “It’s up to us as an industry to continue to educate the customer about the product.”
Contact Bethany Baratta at email@example.com.
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