April 16/New York/Convenience Store News -- A new survey of beverage retailers representing convenience store locations across the U.S. indicates things are looking up in the cooler.

According to Wells Fargo Securities, beverage volume was up more than 4% and pricing trends were up between 2-3% in the convenience store channel during the first quarter. The strong showing came despite higher fuel prices and somewhat sluggish macro trends. Unseasonably mild weather drove increased foot traffic, bolstering beverage volume during the time period, the survey found.

In addition, more than 70% of retailers indicated beverage volume was up over 4% year over year during the first quarter. As a result, Wells Fargo Securities thinks the positive momentum in c-stores could bolster beverage manufacturers' broader price realization efforts, according to Bonnie Herzog, managing director of Beverage, Tobacco & Consumer Research.

Leading the pack, according to Herzog, appears to be Coca-Cola CoIt had the strongest c-store first-quarter volume trends among beverage companies, with the vast majority of retailers indicating Coke-owned and -distributed volume was positive and 40% of the retailers indicating volume increased more than 4% year over year during the first quarter.

For its part, PepsiCo turned in a solid first quarter, the survey found, although not as strong as Coca-Cola. The majority of retailers indicated PepsiCo-owned and -distributed volume trends were positive, with around 20% of the retailers indicating volume increased more than 4% year over year during the time period.

In addition, many retailers in the survey noted positive momentum for Gatorade. Aside from Gatorade, feedback on PepsiCo in the convenience channel was mixed, with some retailers questioning the company's strategy.

Dr Pepper Snapple, on the other hand, lagged the other two beverage giants. According to the Wells Fargo Securities retailer contacts, the company's products generated the volume growth among the U.S. beverage companies in the first quarter, with fewer than 50% of respondents indicating positive year over year volume trends and 34% of the retailers indicating volume was flat.

 From the April 17, 2012, Prepared Foods’ Daily News