BP is driving innovation in the forecourt c-store sector in the face of tough competition, said Andy Davis, BP Retail’s trading director, at last month’s annual ACS conference - now rebranded as Summit 2006 - in Birmingham, attended by nearly 300 delegates.

"We own almost 400 stores, BP demands a return on capital investment of 16%, and downstream fuel margins are tight," he said. "Therefore we have to find points of differentiation and distinctiveness." He said any innovation had to take into consideration the fact that BP’s customers were usually in a hurry. Recent developments included fast lanes, parasite units, newspaper stands, condiment units, category signage, flower stands and etop-up communication.

In terms of the food to go category, he said everything had to be "easy to eat on the move".

One of the aspirations for the Wild Bean format - now a brand worth £50m - was that people wouldn’t need utensils to eat the food served, hence things like ’cut paninis’ could be an option. Davis said fruit bags had been the biggest and most succesful thing launched in Wild Bean in the past 18 months.

The development with M&S Simply Food proved that affiliations were not a cop out: "Be honest about what you’re not great at, be honest about what you may never be great at. But if it really matters to your business, work with someone who is great at it!"

Davis was one of several top speakers at the event, which was chaired by John Waite, Radio 4 presenter.