ICMC is working with retailer partners like Family Express to promote ethanol, build demand for Indiana corn
The Indiana Corn Marketing Council is committed to promoting and making higher-ethanol fuel blends available for consumers in Indiana.
Through checkoff investments, the Indiana Corn Marketing Council works with retailers to promote infrastructure updates to include these higher blends of ethanol. ICMC and Valparaiso, Ind.-based retailer Family Express have been working together for more than a decade.
In a recent visit to Family Express, Gus Olympidis, Family Express President and CEO, told ICMC about the company’s expansion and continued support of renewable fuels, the agriculture industry, and Indiana farmers.
Family Express is expanding its footprint and updating its colonial style with a contemporary look to appeal to a younger demographic. The retailer is building up to 20 new convenience stores, serviced by its central distribution facility. The company has been adding car washes and with an enhanced focus on food service, it has been adding kitchens to many stores.
He says the company is in a good position for expansion.
“Family Express has been debt free for a number of years in an industry that is remarkably capital intensive. We have made a strategic decision to grow and you’re going to see it unfolding in the next few months. We’re building our land bank, closing on sites, and tweaking our prototype,” he says. “It was a difficult thing for us to let the classical colonial look go. It defined us for about 30 years. It was the anti-convenience store look and looked more like a bank. It helped solidify the image that we have in the marketplace as a convenience store that also sells fuel.”
Family Express operates convenience stores in northwest and central Indiana. Olympidis says that Family Express is currently exploring acquisition opportunities.
Supporting biofuels and farmers
Family Express is an early adopter and advocate for higher blends of ethanol, offering E85 Flex Fuel, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, and Unleaded 88, a blend of 15 percent ethanol with 85 percent gasoline, at some locations.
Olympidis says the company will continue to offer renewable fuels because they make sense.
“Why does corn-based ethanol make sense for Family Express? There is a great supply of corn in Indiana and (ethanol) is renewable and good for the environment,” he says. “Why wouldn’t we promote a renewable product produced domestically, specifically in our geography in the Midwest, which supports farmers? We believe biofuels should be part of our future and we will promote it to the extent that we can. Through the expansion we’re going to incorporate biofuels wherever we can and make them available to the consumer.”
Highlighting the environmental benefits of biofuels
Olympidis says there is an opportunity for ICMC and its farmer members to highlight the environmental benefits of ethanol, which contributes up to a 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to petroleum.
“There’s a big issue right now with legitimate environmentalism and pseudo environmentalism. Biofuels are an example of true environmentalism. You don’t need to buy a different vehicle or install anything in your garage to make an immediate impact on the environment. You can be a good steward of the environment today by selecting the correct nozzle that has biofuels,” he says.
He uses electric cars as an example of pseudo environmentalism for being touted as a quick climate solution because they can take several years to reach carbon neutral.
“You’re behind the eight-ball at that point and the assumption is after about nine years you’re going to start helping the environment. That doesn’t make sense,” he says. “Some other questions to answer are where are the batteries going to go, where is the electricity going to come from, and how much coal is going to be consumed to produce the electricity at the charging station? Family Express is very interested in electric vehicles, and I’ve been an advocate for them for the last 25 years in applications that make sense. In terms of making an immediate impact, they’re not there yet.”
Olympidis says there is a big opportunity for farmers, agriculture, and the biofuels industry.
ICMC continues to work with retailer partners to promote ethanol and build demand for Indiana corn.
ICMC Biofuels Director Helena Jette has been working directly with Family Express for about 6 years and welcomes the new look and expansions coming soon.
“I have enjoyed working with the entire Family Express team and appreciate their consistency in supporting and utilizing biofuels. They lead by example,” she says. “I am looking forward to new collaborations in 2024 and beyond.”
Family Express markets E85 in nearly 30 retail outlets.
There are about 93 E15 and 288 E85 fuel retail stations in Indiana, a 9% increase from the prior year. And since the inception of the Indiana checkoff program in 2007, ethanol production has increased by 1.3 billion gallons, which is equivalent to 520 million bushels of corn, according to ICMC’s 2023 annual report.
Click here to learn more about finding biofuels in Indiana.
About Family Express: Valparaiso, Ind.-based Family Express, throughout its 50-year history, has strived to deliver a unique customer experience by Building Relationships with its customers and its communities. The Company’s vertically integrated business model is crowned by its “Living Brand.” Family Express assesses some fifty prospects before it hires the one person that is ideal for serving its customers.
About Indiana Corn Marketing Council: The Indiana Corn Marketing Council was established by the Indiana General Assembly to promote the interests of corn growers in the state and to manage corn checkoff funds. The Council is composed of 17 voting directors who guide investments of corn checkoff funds on behalf of more than 20,000 Indiana corn farmers. The ICMC works to assist corn farmers through its strategic initiatives of market development; environmental, social and economic sustainability; value creation and producer engagement.