The past five years have been banner ones for Coca-Cola retail licensing. The licensing arm of the world’s largest beverage company sustained double-digit annual sales growth during that period – including a 12 percent jump to $1.3 billion in sales this past year. More than 500 million Coca-Cola brand products are now purchased annually.

“The licensing business has nearly tripled in that time,” says Kate Dwyer, group director of Coca-Cola’s worldwide licensing. “Strong partnerships and geographic expansion have been the strongest contributors to that growth.”

Read more: The Coca-Cola Company

When drivers stop to gas up their cars, they often also grab something to eat. That’s why gas stations have long offered some kind of prepared edible fare — such as hot dogs, pizza and deli sandwiches — as well as all kinds of snacks and candy. Sometimes, though, drivers want a more substantial meal, on the go or seated at a table, and fast-food restaurants have clustered around gas stations at road junctions to take advantage of that demand.

Putting fast-food restaurants inside gas station convenience stores was a natural evolution, but it only happened in the past 20 years or so, because there was an inherent perception problem: People didn’t want to eat a real meal that came from a gas station.

Read more: BFS Companies

The uber-competitive grocery industry keeps evolving rapidly, as established chains sell stores or go out of business and fresh new companies sprout up. Through all this change, Arlan’s Market has been growing steadily since 1991, expanding from the original store in Nassau Bay near Houston to Austin and San Antonio.

Now with 13 stores – many of them acquired – the increased scale helps lower costs. “I think we’ve had a lot of time to figure out how we want to run our business before we took over these stores,” Vice President and General Manager Nick Arlan says. “Then when we took over these stores, we were able to take some things from them and implement them into our existing stores.”

These included office software and pricing procedures. “There was some software they owned that pointed us in the direction as far as getting more accurate billing for things that require scan data,” Arlan says. “We ended up buying a better piece of software that would help us with our billing and be more effective on those types of things.”

Read more: Arlan’s Market

Founded in 1948 by Harold Binstein in a storefront near the Chicago Cubs’ ballpark, Binny’s Beverage Depot has expanded to 28 locations with its newest in Champaign, Ill. This Illinois empire created by CEO Michael Binstein, son of the founder, exceeds the original location in store size, merchandise selection and design.

Read more: Binny's Beverage Depot

Family always has been at the heart of Kopp Drug’s success throughout its 85-year history, and all signs point to that remaining the case for another 85 years. According to CFO Steven DeCriscio, whether it is retaining employees for the long haul or reacting to customers’ problems as if they were blood relatives themselves, the tight-knit atmosphere keeps Kopp Drug at the forefront of consumers’ minds throughout central Pennsylvania.

Read more: Kopp Drug Inc.

After more than 40 years, Offenbacher’s is more than a seller of furniture. “We’re a specialty retailer that engages our customers with fun luxuries and the pleasantries of life,” General Manager Mark Ramos says.

The company sells a diverse range of products to fit the changing seasons. For the spring, summer and early fall, “We feature patio furniture, outdoor accessories, gas grills, the ever-popular Big Green Egg kamado cookers and a full line-up of pool and spa chemicals and accessories,” Ramos says.

Read more: Offenbacher's

At first glance, it appears that over the last 30 years the independently owned and operated pharmacy has disappeared, especially in the United State and Canada. Corporate chains, mass merchandisers and big-box stores have congested the industry by increasing their pharmaceutical presence, making it seem as though the doomsday bell has rung for independents.

Read more: Pharmasave

Many say every ship needs a strong captain, and for Vallarta Supermarkets Inc., a store is nothing without the skills of a competent manager to guide it through the rocky waves of daily business. “[We believe] that all the success we may enjoy is 100 percent attributable to [our] ability to attract and develop high-performing management and supervisors,” COO Kurt Erickson says.

Based in Sylmar, Calif., Vallarta Supermarkets operates 41 stores in its home state that specialize in traditional and Hispanic food items, including fresh-made tortillas, salsas and Latin-style cheeses. Founder Enrique Gonzalez Sr. started Vallarta Supermarkets in 1985.

Read more: Vallarta Supermarkets INC.

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