For Casey’s, offering E15 reinforces community values

By Matt Thompson | December 05, 2018

A strong part of the Casey’s General Store brand is its community focus, according to Nathaniel Doddridge, Casey’s director of fuels, so offering E15 was a natural fit that underpins that focus. “In our markets, it just makes sense to offer those blends, because that’s who’s coming to our stores. … It’s those farmers who are producing that feedstock, that corn, and so we feel like this is just one more olive branch we can stick out there and say, ‘We’re part of the community because we’re selling what you produce on the front end,’” he said.

Even though sales of E15 are restricted during the summer months, Doddridge said offering the blend has proven valuable, not only for showing the company’s commitment to the communities it serves, but for attracting customers. “You don’t have many people who drive by and say, ‘Oh, look. There’s a Snickers for 99 cents,’ and pull in. It’s more, ‘That store has cheap fuel,’ and so they pull in, and we’ve felt like that’s been a positive experience. It’s been one more lever that we can pull to drive traffic to a product that has more value,” he said.

President Donald Trump announced earlier this year that he has directed EPA to allow year-round sales of E15. Once that happens, Doddridge said Casey’s is poised to take advantage of summertime sales of the fuel. The move will also offer benefits for the company’s marketing strategy. “Now you can go out and tell a customer that it’s going to be there all the time. It will be a value there, and that’s not going to change,” he said.

Doddridge said the company hasn’t received many comments about E15-either positive or negative-from its customers, “which is a good thing.” He adds that sales of the fuel speak for themselves. “We continue to see sales go up every single month at the stores that are currently selling it.”

In addition to the short-term benefits, offering E15 also allows for future growth. All the Casey’s stores currently offering the fuel use blender pumps to blend E85 into E15. That allows Casey’s to change its offerings to meet market demand as needed. “We’re really setting it up on the front end to be able to have all this capability if it does move to these higher mid-level blends like a 20 or a 30,” Doddridge said.

Casey’s also has plans to expand its E15 offerings to more stores. Doddridge says that all newly-opened stores will sell E15. He adds that the company is also looking at adding E15 to already-existing stores, thanks to President Trump’s announcement. “We can have suppliers now start selling us E15 from the rack, preblended, so we don’t have to have extra tankage at the store to blend it,” which he says will lower the capital expense required to offer E15. He adds three of the company’s fuel suppliers have said they’ll provide Casey’s with preblended E15.

Within the retail industry, Doddridge said many retailers believe the key to offering E15 is consistent messaging and branding. That’s why Casey’s sells E15 using Growth Energy’s Unleaded88 branding. “We’ve seen adoption of that much faster when we have the Unleaded88. … We compete in a lot of markets with other retailers like Kwik Trip and Kum & Go, and each one of them call it something different than we were originally calling it. … Just to kind of provide more continuity and more consistency, we felt like Unleaded88 was a natural fit for us.” he said.