A Convenient Sustainability Solution for C-stores
Kum & Go has embraced biodiesel as sustainability rises in importance for it and its customers.
As one of the largest chains in the competitive convenience store industry, Kum & Go must stay on top of trends. In recent years, environmental sustainability has emerged as perhaps the biggest trend around.
The West Des Moines, Iowa-based company has turned to biodiesel to help it meet both its own and its customers’ environmental goals.
“I think the sustainability factor is very important,” says Jim Pirolli, Vice President of Fuels at Kum & Go. “Reducing carbon emissions and replacing fossil fuels with something that’s more environmentally friendly is a message that a lot of people can get behind, whether they’re fleets or individual drivers.”
When Pirolli talks about giving customers the products they want, he’s talking about a lot of customers. Kum & Go has more than 400 stores in 11 states that serve about 480,000 customers daily.
Biodiesel boosts performance
Kum & Go has a long history with biofuels, first offering an ethanol blend in the late 1970s. About a decade ago, it introduced biodiesel and now blends biodiesel into nearly all of its diesel fuel. That varies from 5 to 20 percent (known as B5 and B20), and it offers biodiesel year-round — even in the middle of winter at its stores in the upper Midwest and mountain regions.
Kum & Go has found that, above all else, customers value performance and want a fuel that they can be confident in and one that provides good fuel economy.
"Everything we do on fuel is based on customer demand and quality, foremost,” Pirolli says. “With biodiesel, the fuel has some unique performance characteristics. There are a lot of BTUs available in biodiesel. That means more power and better fuel economy. It also has a high lubricity ratio. So, when we can use more biodiesel, that’s going to provide better performance for customers, and also potentially lower our diesel retail price.”
It’s important, he says, that a c-store purchases high-quality biodiesel. Kum & Go is an REG customer.
“We choose to partner with upstream players and go directly to our fuel suppliers and producers of the product, whether that’s petroleum or biofuels,” Pirolli says. “A partnership with a company like REG that can supply a large quantity of product, from multiple locations, with a very consistent quality is extremely important for our program.”
Sustainability as a core value
For Kum & Go, sustainability is not only about meeting customer demand. It also has become a core piece of the company’s culture. That’s demonstrated not only in the fuel lineup but also in the more than 100 LEED-certified stores they’ve built, the availability of recycling at fuel dispensers and other initiatives.
“Kum & Go sees biofuel blends fitting into our sustainability goals in a couple of different ways,” Pirolli says. “First of all, we’re located in one of the highest-producing regions for corn and soybeans, and that means that, by promoting biofuels at our stores, we’re helping farmers achieve a better corn or soybean price and are supporting domestic production of biofuels. And then we’re offering customers in the local regions a better economic value on their fuel.”
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