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Casey's General Stores (CASY) Q1 2022 Earnings Call Transcript

By Motley Fool Transcribing – Sep 8, 2021 at 1:00PM

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CASY earnings call for the period ending June 30, 2021.

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Casey's General Stores (CASY -0.28%)
Q1 2022 Earnings Call
Sep 08, 2021, 8:30 a.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:


Operator

Good day, and thank you for standing by. Welcome to the first-quarter fiscal year 2022 Casey's General Stores earnings conference call. [Operator instructions]. I would now like to hand the conference over to your host today, Brian Johnson, senior vice president of investor relations and business development.

Please go ahead.

Brian Johnson -- Senior Vice President of Investor Relations and Business Development

Good morning, and thank you for joining us to discuss the results from our first quarter ended July 31, 2021. I am Brian Johnson, senior vice President, investor relations and business development. With me today is Darren Rebelez, president and chief executive officer; and Steve Bramlage, chief financial officer. Before we begin, I'll remind you that certain statements made by us during this investor call may constitute forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995.

These forward-looking statements include any statements relating to expectations for future periods, possible or assumed future results of operations, financial conditions, liquidity and related sources or needs, the company's supply chain, business and integration strategies, plans and synergies, growth opportunities, performance at our stores and the potential effects of COVID-19. There are a number of known and unknown risks, uncertainties, and other factors that may cause our actual results to differ materially from any future results expressed or implied by those forward-looking statements, including but not limited to, the integration of the Buchanan Energy acquisition, our ability to execute on our strategic plan or to realize benefits from the strategic plan, the impact and duration of COVID-19 and related governmental actions, as well as other risks and uncertainties and factors, which are described in our most recent annual report on Form 10-K and quarterly reports on Form 10-Q as filed with the SEC and available on our website. Any forward-looking statements made during this call reflect our current views as of today with respect to future events, and Casey's disclaims any intentions or obligations to update or revise forward-looking statements whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. A reconciliation of non-GAAP to GAAP financial measures referenced in this call, as well as a detailed breakdown of the operating expense increase for the quarter can be found on our website at www.caseys.com under the investor relations link.

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Before I turn the call over to Darren, I'd like to point out that we changed the titles of two categories that we routinely disclose and discuss. Grocery and other merchandise has been changed to grocery and general merchandise, and prepared food and fountain has been changed to prepared food and dispensed beverage. We believe these changes provide a better description of the categories. There's been no change to the products within the categories nor the calculation of sales and margin.

With that said, I'd now like to turn the call over to Darren to discuss our first-quarter results. Darren?

Darren Rebelez -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Brian, and good morning, everyone. We're looking forward to sharing our results in a moment, but I would like to start with the top priority for Casey's: supporting our team members and their safety in the continuing battle with COVID-19 due to the delta variant. It's been a long 18 months and after summer that seemed nearly normal, our team is again experiencing COVID-19 case increases and related challenges. In spite of these obstacles, our team has performed exceptionally well, and truly makes life better for our communities and guests every day.

I couldn't be more proud of our resiliency and commitment to Casey's. As our guests and communities shift gears from summer and head back to school, commuting to work and engaging the fall routines, Casey's will be here ready to serve them. The return to school is in time to come together in our communities. In August, Casey's Cash for Classrooms giving campaign raised almost $1 million, thanks to our generous guests and passionate team members.

These funds will support grants to local schools and our footprint. The grant applications opened in October, so we look forward to hearing from our communities and what their schools need. I'd also like to provide some exciting updates with respect to our board of directors. I'm proud to share that Greg Trojan, former CEO of BJ's Restaurants, has joined the Casey's board.

He brings 25 years of experience leading national restaurant, retail, and consumer products companies like Guitar Center, House of Blues Entertainment, and California Pizza Kitchen. Adding Greg to the Casey's board adds strategic expertise in areas that fuel the growth of our business: focusing on the guest, leading an exceptional restaurant caliber food service program, and being a retail leader. We look forward to leveraging Greg's unique perspective and industry expertise to support Casey's growth and success. Additionally, our board of directors recently received recognition from 50-50 women on boards.

This organization recognizes companies where female directors hold 50% of its corporate board seats. At Casey's, we're committed to equity and diversity and are honored to be recognized and appreciate the female leaders who hold positions on our board. Finally, in July, we published our inaugural environmental, social, and governance, or ESG report. I'm grateful to the entire Casey's team and our board for their support as we developed and delivered this first report.

We understand the responsibility that comes with our role at the heart of the communities and we are committed to creating long-term value for all stakeholders. We look forward to sharing our progress along the journey. Now let's discuss the quarter's results. As you see in the press release, we're off to a great start to the fiscal year.

Diluted earnings per share were $3.19, just off slightly from the all-time high quarter one year ago. Adjusted EBITDA was $243.2 million, the highest quarterly EBITDA in company history. Sales volumes and margin improved dramatically as guest traffic began to rebound, driving an all-time high gross profit dollar quarter for the company. We also successfully completed the closing of two highly strategic acquisitions in the first quarter and are already seeing good performance.

I'd now like to go over our results and share some of the details in each of the categories. Inside same-store sales were up 8% for the first quarter with an average margin of 40.5%. Grab-and-go items, such as pizza slices, packaged beverages and snacks were up significantly throughout the quarter as guest traffic improved. Same-store grocery and general merchandise sales were up 7%, and the average margin was 33%, compared to 32.2% for the same period a year ago.

The store resets completed toward the end of last fiscal year continue to significantly benefit this category. Packaged beverages outperformed despite high comparisons during the pandemic, achieving a two-year stack same-store growth of 17.6%. Although alcohol sales have moderated and were about flat versus pandemic-driven buying in the prior year, they still achieved a 20.2% two-year stack sales growth. Gross profit margin improved due in part to our strategic sourcing efforts from our centralized procurement team.

This category also benefits from our private label effort as we exited the quarter with a 4.4% penetration rate for the grocery and general merchandise category. Same-store prepared food and dispensed beverage sales were up 10.8%. The average margin for the quarter was 61% versus 59.7% from a year ago. Sales were up double digits in bakery items and dispensed beverages.

Pizza slices were the star of the show, up close to 29% in the quarter. During the first quarter, same-store fuel gallons sold were up 9% with a fuel margin of $0.351 per gallon as Casey's continue to achieve strong fuel margins. The company took advantage of a favorable renewable fuel credit environment and sold $18.7 million in RINs. The fuel team has done a tremendous job balancing fuel volume and margin to optimize the profitability of the category.

I would now like to turn the call over to Steve to go into some detail on the financial statements. Steve?

Steve Bramlage -- Chief Financial Officer

Thank you, Darren, and good morning. Total revenue for the quarter was nearly $3.2 billion, an increase of $1.1 billion or 51% from the prior year. This was primarily due to an increase of retail sales of fuel of $881 million, driven by a 21.5% increase of total gallons sold to 667.5 million gallons, as well as a 49% increase in the average retail price per gallon. The average retail price of fuel during the period was $2.95 a gallon, compared to $1.98 a year ago.

Reported fuel results do not include the recently acquired Buchanan Energy wholesale fuel business, which is included in the other revenue category. Total inside sales rose 14% to $1.1 billion. Grocery and general merchandise sales increased by $104 million to 835.5 million, an increase of 14%, and prepared food and dispensed beverage sales rose approximately $38 million to 308.4 million, also an increase of 14%. Please note the reported figures are favorably impacted by approximately 7.5% more stores being operated on a year-over-year basis.

As a reminder, we define gross profit as revenue less cost of goods sold but excluding depreciation and amortization. Casey's had gross profit of $723.9 million in the first quarter. That's an increase of over $100 million from the prior year. This represents the highest quarterly gross profit in Casey's history.

It is primarily attributable to higher inside gross profit of $66.3 million or nearly 17%, as well as an increase of $24.4 million or 11.6% in fuel gross profit. Fuel gross profit benefited by nearly $19 million from the sale of a larger quantity of RINs than in a typical quarter. Our grocery and general merchandise gross profit increased $39.8 million while prepared food and dispensed beverage gross profit increased $26.5 million. We also saw a $9.7 million lift in other gross profit.

This is primarily due to the dealer network activities and car washes acquired from the Buchanan Energy acquisition that we now record in the other category. In addition to higher revenues and gross profit, it was encouraging to see inside gross profit margin expansion as well. Our merchandising and logistics teams are performing exceptionally well in the face of a broader inflationary and supply chain-challenged environment. Inside gross profit margin was 40.5%, which is an increase of 90 bps from the prior-year quarter.

The grocery and general merchandise margin was 33%, up 80 basis points. Prepared food and dispensed beverage margin was 61%, up 130 basis points from prior year. Casey's enjoyed favorable sales mix shifts both within and across the categories as packaged beverages, along with the chips, meat snacks and candy performed well in addition to the resurgence of grab-and-go items within the prepared food and dispensed beverage category. Finally, the company enjoyed a favorable wholesale cheese cost comparison.

Cheese costs were $1.97 per pound this quarter, compared to $2.12 for the same quarter a year ago. This positively impacted segment margins by approximately 50 basis points and offset inflationary pressures we received in other commodity products. Total operating expenses were up 24% or $92.8 million in the first quarter, and that's consistent with our expectations. Approximately 11% of the increase is due to same-store employee and store operating expenses increasing.

We added 2 million labor hours back or approximately 14% into the system on a year-over-year basis as stores returned to near pre-COVID operating hours. These additional hours accounted for more than half of the same-store increase, followed by wage rate increases and store operating expenses, which are also due to higher hours such as repairs and maintenance and higher utility costs. On a two-year stack basis, we continue to mind our labor utilization as same-store labor hours remain down, approximately 4% versus pre-COVID levels. Approximately 8% of the operating expense increase is due to growth in units as we operated 166 more stores than the prior year.

And this also includes approximately $8 million in onetime deal and integration costs, which was several million dollars lower than we originally anticipated. With the large rise in retail fuel prices, same-store credit card fees also rose and thus accounted for another 3% of the operating expense increase in the quarter. As mentioned earlier, the operating expense increase was in line with internal expectations as the company anticipated that the most significant quarterly increase for fiscal '22 would occur this quarter given the increase in store count and operating hours relative to last year. Importantly, I'd like to reemphasize that the company still expects the full-year operating expense increase to finish within our previous outlook, which is a mid-teens percentage increase.

Depreciation in the quarter was up 15%, driven primarily by the store growth along with placing our third warehouse into service. The effective tax rate for the quarter was 23.3%, compared to 23.8% in the prior year. This includes an approximately $3 million onetime charge associated with revaluing our deferred tax liabilities as part of the Buchanan Energy closing, and that was several million dollars lower than we initially expected. Adjusted EBITDA for the quarter was $243.2 million, compared to $237.8 million a year ago.

That's an increase of 2.3%. This also represents the highest quarterly EBITDA in the company's history. Net income was down very slightly versus the prior year record to $119.2 million. The acquisitions that we completed in the first quarter were dilutive to earnings as we expected.

We remain confident that we will achieve the synergies anticipated with these transactions and that they will be accretive for the remainder of the year. Our balance sheet remains strong. At July 31, cash and cash equivalents were $199 million, and we have the full capacity of our $475 million lines of credit, giving us ample available liquidity of $647 million. Our leverage ratio ticked up as we had expected upon the closing of the two transactions to 2.4 times.

For the quarter, the company generated $197 million of free cash flow, which we define as cash flow from operating activities less purchases of property and equipment. This compares to $307 million in the prior year. The primary difference versus prior year was lower contribution from working capital as the prior year benefited from a favorable fuel price impact on accounts payable, as well as the deferral of FICA contributions under the CARES Act. At the September meeting, the board of directors increased the dividend to $0.35 per share, which represents the 22nd year in a row of raising the dividend.

We will remain balanced in our capital allocation going forward, leaning into the many growth-related investment opportunities that we have, but continuing to repay debt gradually and tending to the dividend. The company has opened 142 stores so far this year, which includes three new store openings, the 137 stores from the Buchanan Energy and Circle K acquisitions, and two independent acquisitions. Obviously, there continues to be a growing uncertainty around consumer behavior and traffic volumes as the delta variant continues to spread throughout the country. The industry is also dealing with product outages and supply chain challenges, both with respect to fuel and merchandise.

However, we feel confident in our previously disclosed fiscal '22 outlook and do not believe it's necessary to make any adjustments other than that we now expect the effective tax rate for the year to land between 24 and 26%. As previously mentioned, we expect total operating expenses to finish the year up mid-teen percentages and that the quarterly year-over-year increases will gradually decline as the year progresses with a small improvement in the second quarter and more substantial changes in the second half. The company will continue to endeavor to offset labor inflation with gross profit adjustments, and Darren will talk about what we're doing to address the tight labor market shortly. Looking ahead to the very near term, we expect second quarter earnings to be lower than the prior year due to higher operating expenses and depreciation, which will be partially offset by higher gross profit, primarily from inside the stores.

I'll now turn the call back over to Darren.

Darren Rebelez -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Steve. First, I'd like to congratulate the entire Casey's team for delivering impressive results in the first quarter. We couldn't have done it without their hard work and dedication, and given the resurgence of the delta variant, we'll continue to need their perseverance to perform at a high level. Total inside sales were trending up low to mid-single digits through August.

For fuel, we have experienced low single-digit positive gallon growth, while fuel margins remain over $0.30 per gallon. The team has done a great job executing the strategic plan. If you recall, the pillars of the strategic plan to deliver top quintile EBITDA growth or reinvent the guest experience, create capacities through efficiencies, and being where the guest is via disciplined unit growth. All of this is going to be driven by an investment in talent to strengthen the team and add capabilities to the business.

Given the inflationary pressures most retail industries are currently experiencing, I think it's appropriate to start with creating capacity through efficiencies as it is top of mind for the team right now at Casey's. Our distribution center in Joplin, Missouri is fully functional. This will help reduce over 1.8 million miles annually from our supply chain and will enable us to keep total G&A and distribution expenses flat for the fiscal year. This has also brought about more operational flexibility as we manage through broader supply chain challenges with our vendor partners and adapt real-time to keep store stocked.

Our centralized procurement team is up and running with new software that is enabling better vendor management and strategic sourcing initiatives. Our fuel team continues to drive profitability through retail price optimization and procurement efforts. Our merchandising team has proven they are capable of navigating through this inflationary environment by effectively managing cost of goods negotiations and making retail price point adjustments as needed. We've also successfully driven sales to more profitable categories from the store resets completed last fiscal year.

And finally, private label products continue to grow market share inside our stores. Not only is this a better value option for our guests, but it also improves gross profit margin for the category. With respect to Being Where the Guest is, we're off to a great start integrating the two highly strategic acquisitions that we completed in the first quarter. Specifically regarding the Buchanan Energy transaction, we've begun to move their merchandise and fuel onto our contracts.

We've also started to realize some operating expense savings and just last week, rebranded four stores to Casey's that includes our pizza program. Synergy expectations remain on track for both deals and our dedicated M&A team is actively pursuing more opportunities. We continue to make great strides as we reinvent the guest experience at Casey's. Expanding our digital guest engagement remains a high priority as digital sales were up 14% in the first quarter, cycling a 162% increase last year.

We recently expanded our delivery business to include Uber Eats marketplace at 750 stores. DoorDash marketplace is up to 890 stores. We have also implemented DoorDash white label delivery, a third-party service that takes orders through our systems at 830 stores. This enables our Casey's Rewards members to fully participate with their member benefits on our own app and receive delivery services throughout the entire day.

We still utilize our own delivery drivers at 400 stores and still offer in-store pickup and curbside pickup at over 2,200 stores. Our Casey's Reward enrollment continues to grow, and we just eclipsed 4 million members in August. We have also begun to utilize segmented marketing campaigns where we offer personalization and daypart content on both the web and app. We believe we can effectively optimize guest behavior with this type of targeted promotional activity.

With respect to investing in our talent, the company has held several mass hiring events to address our staffing challenges and continue to offer retention and referral bonuses. We believe these efforts are working. Application rates per store rose over 60% from April 30 to the end of the first quarter. As the special federal unemployment benefits expire this month, we expect this trend to continue.

We will remain competitive in the market with respect to pay to adequately staff our stores so we can continue to deliver the outstanding experience our guests have come to expect from Casey's. We're also incentivizing our team with a $50 bonus to get vaccinated as the health and safety of our team members and our guests is our top priority. Before I open up the call to questions, I'd like to take a moment to recognize Julie Jackowski, our general counsel. Julie is a 27-year Casey's team member has been a key member of our senior leadership team since 2010.

She plans to retire later this quarter after a long and distinguished career. In addition to serving Casey's, she's been a tremendous advocate for the convenience store industry, serving our various committees and volunteer roles with the National Association of Convenience Stores, including chairperson of the board. I'm going to personally miss her advice and counsel, and I wish her and her husband, Tom, the best. Congratulations, Julie, on a well-deserved retirement.

We will now take your questions.

Questions & Answers:


Operator

Thank you. [Operator instructions]. Our first question comes from Brian Griffin with Raymond James. Your line is open.

Bobby Griffin -- Raymond James -- Analyst

Good morning, guys. This is Bobby Griffin. Thanks for taking my questions and congrats on a great quarter. I just want to follow up on the comments around opex.

Really great to see you guys reaffirm the target despite probably -- or not probably a tougher labor environment than when we originally talked last. But can you maybe just give some detail on what the drivers are for the back half of the year opex to slow down from a year-over-year growth perspective? Is there some internal initiatives going on? Is it just a function of the year-over-year comparisons with the hours? Anything there to help us think about what would slow down the growth as we move through the year in opex?

Darren Rebelez -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes, Bobby, this is Darren. I'll start off and then Steve can fill in the blanks for me. Yes, as -- you recall last year, we kind of pulled back hard on operating hours in our stores and our kitchens as kitchens were restricted or even required to shut down early on. As things were on through the pandemic and things started to open up gradually, we started to add back some of those hours.

So the biggest year-over-year delta really took place in the first quarter. And as things progress throughout the year, we started adding more operating hours back. And so those year-over-year comparisons start to soften a little bit from a absolute growth standpoint. And so that's why you see that start to get a little bit better in the back half of the year.

Steve, anything you'd like to add?

Steve Bramlage -- Chief Financial Officer

Yes, I think some of it is just the math to Darren's point, so we won't have the add back of hours that we had in the first quarter in the last three quarters, but we will start to feel a little bit more of the wage pressure year-over-year delta last year. In the first quarter, we were still paying some special COVID pay to people that gradually worked its way out of the system. And so the change in hours is going to be less impactful to us, but the change in rates will become more impactful as we move forward in the remainder of the year. We've added most of the new units.

We think we're targeting 200 units into the system this year. Obviously, more than half of those have already come into the system. So that will become a little bit less impactful incrementally going forward. And then the credit card fees, that's going to follow the price of fuel to a large extent.

But the math simply helps us with ours and the actual wage rates as we go forward. And so second quarter should be a little bit better year over year than what we saw in the first quarter, but we'll start to see significant improvement in terms of the year-over-year increases as we get into the second half of the year.

Darren Rebelez -- President and Chief Executive Officer

And then the only that I will add to that is the -- in the first quarter, we had a onetime deal and integration costs for the two acquisitions that obviously don't repeat themselves in the back half of the year. So you see some softening there as well.

Bobby Griffin -- Raymond James -- Analyst

Yes. Very helpful. I appreciate the detail. I guess just a quick follow-up -- for my follow-up question in the hours.

I think you called out saying same-store hours down a little bit versus pre-COVID period. Is that just a function of -- you mentioned efficiencies always looking at the labor hours. Is the mix of the business and kind of demand over the breakfast, lunch, and dinner period also driving some of that? And is that mix close to back to normal, still not back to normal? And then how do you see bringing hours back? I understand the year-over-year comparisons are different, but do you see opportunities to kind of keep pre-COVID hours a little lower even if we go back to a normal mix environment inside your store from business?

Darren Rebelez -- President and Chief Executive Officer

What I would say, Bobby, is that we were doing a lot of work around labor management really pre-COVID and then throughout COVID in terms of time motion studies, standing up a new labor management tool, implementing that. So I think we were getting more efficient with the deployment of our labor hours in the base case. And then what we've got going on right now is just difficult comparisons as we cycle unusual circumstances year-over-year with COVID. With respect to the breakfast business, we are not all the way back to where we expect to be.

I think we're going to learn a lot here in the next several weeks post Labor Day with school fully back in session, people going back to work or not depending on the delta variant. But we just announced today, we've launched a new breakfast lineup and a new coffee program. So we're encouraged by the potential that, that program has to offer. And so hopefully, we'll get back, but we're not anticipating having to significantly invest more in labor to meet that need.

Bobby Griffin -- Raymond James -- Analyst

Thank you. I appreciate the details. Very helpful. Best of luck going forward.

Darren Rebelez -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Bobby.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Ben Bienvenu with Stephens. Your line is open.

Ben Bienvenu -- Stephens Inc. -- Analyst

Hey, thanks. Good morning, guys.

Steve Bramlage -- Chief Financial Officer

Good morning.

Darren Rebelez -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, Ben.

Ben Bienvenu -- Stephens Inc. -- Analyst

So I want to start on the prepared foods business. Obviously, we're seeing the comps come back. You talked about the improvement in slices. If I look at the margin profile of the business, it's on a recovery track for sure, but it's still below kind of where we were pre-COVID.

And I'm wondering if that's a function of mix that we maybe are a little bit lighter on the dispensed beverage side of the equation as you talk about sort of mobility improving, as the morning daypart potentially starts to improve, as dispensed beverage improves with mobility and the slight mix improves, would you expect that margin to start to grind its way back to that pre-COVID level? Or is there anything else that we should be mindful of there?

Darren Rebelez -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes. I think it's going to take some time, Ben, to get back to pre-COVID level. But certainly, with the morning daypart still under pressure, we're seeing -- while we're seeing better bakery and coffee sales than we were a year ago, we're not -- still not all the way back to where we were before. And then the same applies to the other dispensed beverages, fountain and frozen, while improving over prior year, still not all the way there.

And so that -- we're still working our way toward getting back to that margin rate. The other thing is that we have seen some inflation in some of the ingredients that we use in our prepared foods. So while we've been able to mitigate that to a certain extent through our cheese lock or through pricing, we have seen inflation in a lot of the other ingredients and toppings for our various food products, which has put a little pressure on those margins.

Ben Bienvenu -- Stephens Inc. -- Analyst

Yes. OK. That makes sense. And then you noted that you sold some additional RINs this quarter.

It doesn't look like it was a huge amount, but it's tough to tell with specificity. I'm curious if you could offer any color on what the kind of surplus balance of RINs is that you're carrying forward? And maybe not when you expect to sell them, but just give us some sense of what's remaining out there so we can think about appropriately modeling fuel margins.

Steve Bramlage -- Chief Financial Officer

Yes. I'll take that, Ben. So we carried over a little more than 4 million physical RINs from the fourth quarter into the first quarter of this year that normal course, we probably historically would have sold those RINs in the fourth quarter. Those had a value at average prices in the fourth quarter, roughly $5 million.

So we kind of carry that $5 million of value into the first quarter. When we did sell those, we have completely sold all of those in the first quarter. Market prices have continued to go up. So we realized somewhere in the neighborhood of 7 or $8 million of value from those $4 million plus of RINs.

I would tell you we're pretty much caught up in terms of being balanced with the bank. I don't anticipate that we will, we did not carry anything forward of note from 1Q into 2Q. I don't think we have any plans currently to carry anything forward. And then so I would expect we'll sell whatever we generate, and so that's a function, obviously, of the type of fuel that we end up selling and whether we slash blend it or not.

But I wouldn't expect the carryover to impact rent monetization going forward. I think this was a one-off event, just given the circumstances of what was happening with prices at that point in time.

Ben Bienvenu -- Stephens Inc. -- Analyst

OK. Very helpful. Thanks very much.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Bonnie Herzog with Goldman Sachs. Your line is open.

Bonnie Herzog -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Good morning. I was just hoping for a little more color on the integration process. It sounds like it's been going well so far, and you mentioned like synergies are on track, but maybe you could highlight a few of these synergies and where you might have more upside than you thought previously, now that you guys have had more time to analyze the business? Then as we look forward, do you have a better sense yet of the upside potential to Bucky's margins? I'm thinking about food, grocery, or even fuel and the timing of that as you start to layer in some of your capabilities? Thanks.

Darren Rebelez -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes, Bonnie. Like I mentioned in the -- in my opening remarks, yes, we feel really good about the integration process so far. And it's -- this is a little more complex because this was a stock deal. So we have the entire G&A infrastructure of the company.

And we're still very early days. We've only had it about 90 days at this point. So the process is working according to plan. We have started to wind down some of the operations in their office.

Part of what we acquired there was a small distribution center that they have, and we're starting to wind down those operations and expect to be out of that by the end of the year. But we are in the process of converting stores over to Casey's from Bucky's. And we've got the first four open and operating. We're seeing encouraging results there, but obviously, very early days.

I would say probably from the -- from an upside perspective, there's probably a couple of areas that we're -- we feel good about. One is on fuel and fuel margins. We've really seen an uptick in the fuel margins in that business, particularly in the Illinois stores versus what we had originally anticipated. So that's been a positive upside.

We also have a reverse synergy opportunity with car wash. They were -- they really put a lot of focus and emphasis on their car wash business, which is something that we've been getting into, but frankly, haven't done a great job of. And so we've been able to take some of their folks that are experts in that area and help us apply some best practices. So we think there's some upside there.

We're not really changing any of our modeling expectations from this. I think it'd be a little bit too premature to do that. But suffice it to say, we're encouraged with what we've experienced so far. We're confident this is going to work out according to plan.

Bonnie Herzog -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

OK. Appreciate that color. Thank you.

Darren Rebelez -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks.

Operator

We have a question from Kelly Bania with BMO Capital. Your line is open.

Kelly Bania -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

Hi. Good morning. Thanks for taking the questions. Good morning.

Was wondering if you could talk a little bit more about that breakfast -- the new breakfast line. Maybe just kind of walk us through some of the potential math there? And what does breakfast account for today in terms of that daypart of within prepared foods? And where do you think this could go over time? And just any impacts to margins or your labor model from this initiative?

Darren Rebelez -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes, Kelly, we're really excited about the breakfast launch. We've done a couple of things. We've focused on improving some of the existing products that we already had, just getting higher quality ingredients in different builds. So in some of our breakfast sandwiches, our breakfast biscuits, our croissant sandwiches, improving some of the quality there.

We've also rationalized some of the lower-performing SKUs out to make it more efficient to operate the kitchens. And then our culinary team developed a new product, a breakfast handheld product that leverages our made-from-scratch dough in unique builds with sausage and egg and cheese or bacon and egg and cheese, but leveraging that dough in a unique way. So it's handheld, it's very portable and car friendly. And as we go into the fall, you've seen a lot of QSR concepts lean into breakfast because everybody is trying to get their breakfast business back.

But I would argue there's not been any real innovation in breakfast, it's all the same stuff. We think we've got a unique product with this handheld that is differentiated in the marketplace. Nobody else will be able to produce this because it's made from scratch in our kitchens every day. So we really like that.

We rebuilt a breakfast burrito that is really -- and our consumer testing has been a fan favorite. So we've got high expectations of that. And then probably the single biggest thing we did was we upgraded our coffee platform. So we -- over the summer, we replaced the equipment at all 2,300 of our stores to a bean-to-cup coffee program.

So the coffee technology grinds of beans and brews each cup of coffee fresh. So that will enable us to reduce waste, make it easier to execute in the stores from a labor standpoint and provide fresh coffee 24/7. And so we're really excited about that process as well. So we think when you take all of that, we got a little bit of labor efficiency on the coffee piece, we've got a little bit more complexity on the food side.

We think that's a wash from a labor standpoint, but providing a much better experience for the guests.

Steve Bramlage -- Chief Financial Officer

I think we lost Kelly.

Darren Rebelez -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Did we lose you Kelly?

Kelly Bania -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

Just following up on that. As you think about your guidance for the year for mid-single-digit comps, are you baking in any contribution from this new initiative? And just if you could elaborate, I think you commented on the low-single-digit through August. Is that in line -- it sounds like it's in line with your expectations?

Darren Rebelez -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes, low to mid-single digits for inside sales, and that's what we're experiencing now. And would anticipate at this point. We've really had -- we knew this breakfast lineup was coming. So that's been baked into our expectations for the year.

And it's going to be a very competitive breakfast environment in the fall. Like I mentioned before, with most every QSR concept that has breakfast trying to get back into that business. So we expect we need this to be competitive. We think we're differentiated, and we'll outperform, but we have that baked into our numbers for the year.

Kelly Bania -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Matthew Fishbein with Jefferies. Your line is open.

Matthew Fishbein -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Hey. Good morning, guys. Thanks for the questions.

Steve Bramlage -- Chief Financial Officer

Good morning.

Darren Rebelez -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning.

Matthew Fishbein -- Jefferies -- Analyst

So some of the company's gallons per store uptick in the quarter was likely due to that addition of Buchanan stores to the mix. But I think same-store gallons still improved a bit on a per-store basis relative to '19 -- calendar '19 that is. While fuel margins, even excluding the, call it, $0.025 per gallon impact from a larger RIN contribution still sequentially increased quarter over quarter. And you did highlight your expectation to lift inside store gross margins and help offset that opex headwind.

But given cost inflation facing the entire industry and given most of the industry doesn't have that strong inside store lever that Casey's does to offset opex increases, from your perspective, where do you see industry fuel margins and their ability to remain stable or expand further from here as gallons continue to come back or maybe asked a different way, if the industry cost outlook were to increase in the near term, do you believe there's still room on the fuel margin side for the industry to offset it?

Darren Rebelez -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes, Matthew, I would say that at this point, we'd have to say that these margins are sustainable, at least in the near term. And it's for the reasons that you mentioned, the underlying cost to operate this business are going up. I mean everything from labor, which is well documented and everybody is dealing with that. There is some inflation we're seeing.

Some are probably experiencing it more than we are, but they're experiencing it nonetheless. EMV compliance, which just kicked in, in April is another piece of the equation. And so -- and then of course, credit card fees that we're experiencing right now. So all of those things are making it a more opex-heavy environment.

And to your point earlier, most of the retailers in the industry don't have the levers we have to offset that. So that's most likely going to find its way into the fuel price. So I would say these margins are somewhat sustainable. Whether they last at $0.30 a gallon or north of $0.30 a gallon longer term is anybody's guess, but I would certainly expect that they're going to remain elevated from where they were historically because there's no other place for most of these folks to go to recapture this opex.

It's got to go somewhere, and I think that's where it's going -- most likely to end up.

Matthew Fishbein -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Yes, makes sense. Thanks for that. And just a follow-up on inside gross margin. Some of your peers are having higher-than-normal out-of-stocks in stores, mostly driven by their collection of distributors having their own labor and fill rate issues.

And I know category and subcategory mix, the procurement opportunity, private brand products, that's already lifting inside gross margins for you, but I'm presuming there's still room for improvement just off industry supply chain headwinds hopefully softening at some point going forward. So I guess just to clarify, given your self-distribution model in grocery, is that additional control of the supply chain helping this environment? Or would you say you're still having some of that transitory supply chain headwind from fill rates from your suppliers and out of stocks in store?

Darren Rebelez -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, I'll tell you, Matthew, that our -- the fact that we own our own supply chain has been a huge benefit to us during this whole time. Now I'll be the first to say, we have experienced our own challenges with the supply chain because manufacturers are struggling to produce products. But the fact that we control the supply chain has given us a lot of flexibility. I'll give you an example.

We've had some suppliers that can't get product to us because of driver shortages. Well, we have our own fleet of drivers and trucks. So we can send a tractor to a manufacturer, pick up a trailer and get it back to our distribution centers, continue to distribute product. We have some products that we distribute ourselves that otherwise would be DSD-supplied products.

And we've seen, as we've gone into competitor stores, that these stores are out of stock on a lot of those products that we're able to self-distribute and manage. So -- and then the last piece that you mentioned with private label. Having the private label products has enabled us in some categories when we've been short within that category from a national brand supplier to flex over and provide our own product in that same category and make up for some of those out of stock. So we think we are definitely in a better in-stock position because of that flexibility than a lot of our competitors are.

Now that being said, it has been a challenge. We -- and it's a new challenge every day that we hear from certain suppliers and on their end, it's anywhere from labor shortages to driver shortages and some time -- in some cases, it's raw material shortages that have occurred. So it's across the board. But like I said, I like our spot of having positive control over the supply chain, being able to flex and adjust to keep our stores in stock.

Matthew Fishbein -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Awesome. Thank you very much.

Operator

We have a question from Chuck Cerankosky with Northcoast Research. Your line is open.

Chuck Cerankosky -- Northcoast Research -- Analyst

Good morning, everyone. Great quarter. Got a question about the pizza business. You mentioned that the supply -- excuse me, there is a resurgence in the single slice business.

How does that coordinate with the whole pie business? Is the ladder dropping off? Or have you held on to that? Can you sort of talk about the financial impact as those parts of the pizza business move around?

Darren Rebelez -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes, Chuck, the slice business has definitely come back. We're up about 29% year over year in slices. But the whole pizza business in the slice business really don't compete much with each other. The slice business is primarily a morning and afternoon dayparts of breakfast and lunch daypart occasion.

As you get it more into the evening time and dinner, that's when we shift over to the whole pie business. So they really kind of complement each other more than they conflict with each other. Now that being said, our whole pie business has softened a little bit versus prior year. Obviously, when everything was shut down, the whole pie business really surged, but on a two-year stack basis, we're up double digits in whole pie.

So we feel like we've held on to a lot of that incremental growth that we experienced during the the height of the pandemic, but we gave a little bit back. But overall, but we're really happy with where the pizza business is right now and it's continuing to grow.

Chuck Cerankosky -- Northcoast Research -- Analyst

All right. Thank you. That's very helpful.

Operator

Our next question comes from Anthony Lebiedzinski from Sidoti & Company. Your line is open.

Anthony Lebiedzinski -- Sidoti & Company -- Analyst

Hey, guys. Good morning. And thank you for taking the questions. So in terms of the procurement initiatives, how far along are you with that process or maybe now in baseball terms, can you give us a sense as to what inning are you in now? Just wanted to get a sense as to the opportunity that you have in front of you?

Steve Bramlage -- Chief Financial Officer

Yes, I'll start with that, Anthony. We're early innings for sure with our strategic sourcing initiatives generally. It probably varies a little bit by category. So we obviously -- we're working on multiple facets here.

Some of it, for sure, is supply -- the existing supply agreements that were already in place that we need to kind of age through normal course for many of our suppliers. We had more, I think, historical informal relationships that probably weren't as legally binding as you might expect for an organization of our size. And so we are working through most of those. I think on the grocery business, we've had a lot of success over the last year, renegotiating and entering into favorable supply contracts with a lot of our CPG and DSD suppliers.

And I think we're seeing that for sure in the margin improvement in that category where we don't talk much about inflation pressure in that category, and that's a function of the procurement progress that we've made. On the prepared food side, there is less -- currently under renegotiated long-term contracts. That's where most of our focus is right now if you think of a commodity suppliers, everything from cheese to proteins. A lot of emphasis on that.

I would expect by the end of the year, we will have made quite a bit of progress not only in locking up longer-term agreements, but also making sure we have less dependency on single source suppliers than we do today in certain categories. And given Darren's earlier comment just around supply chain challenges, I think we all would feel better with a little more redundancy in certain aspects of our supply chain. And then finally, on the indirect side, things like construction, etc., where we spend quite a bit of capital dollars, we've put in some new systems that we referenced earlier that will enable us to be, I think, much more formal in creating competitive scenarios for future capital spending that will continue to yield fruit for a while. So we've got a long way to go, and I would expect that all of those to contribute positively to the margin improvement opportunities that we talk about over the next -- really the next several years.

Anthony Lebiedzinski -- Sidoti & Company -- Analyst

Got it. Yes. Thanks for the detailed answer. So just to follow-up on the part of that.

So as far as cheese costs are concerned, obviously, it's a big component of your prepared food category. Where are you now as far as cheese plus near term? And how does that compare versus a year ago?

Steve Bramlage -- Chief Financial Officer

We're about -- we've got about half of our second-quarter requirements locked in. If you look at the spot curve today, I would tell you, we anticipate the cheese cost impact in the second quarter to be comparable to what we had in the first quarter. So we had -- and I think it's about an 8% decline in the commodity cost in the first quarter. I think we're looking at something similar to that in the second quarter.

We are not locked beyond the second quarter. We'll continue to watch the market and try to be opportunistic around that. But I think second quarter will be a tailwind and the spot prices today would us have a little bit of headwind cost at the moment in the second half of the year, but it currently would not be significant.

Anthony Lebiedzinski -- Sidoti & Company -- Analyst

Got it. Thank you. Best of luck.

Darren Rebelez -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks.

Operator

We have a question from John Royall with J.P. Morgan. Your line is open.

John Royall -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

Hey. Good morning. Thanks for taking my question. Is there anything you could share on the pro forma year-over-year performance of the Buchanan assets this quarter? And any major differences to point out between legacy Casey's and the acquisition? We feel that Casey's numbers vary in the same-store metrics, but anything you could share on Buchanan itself, which is not evident in the GAAP numbers would be helpful.

Steve Bramlage -- Chief Financial Officer

Maybe I'll just start. I mean, obviously, we didn't own the assets for the entire quarter. So the comp is a little bit challenging if you're just looking at it. I would say, generally speaking to Darren's earlier comments, I think we're about where we thought we would be.

I think at the highest level, we spent a little bit less in terms of kind of closing integration-related costs than we had thought we were going to, which helped us a little bit. We had a lower tax charge just once we went through all of the numbers than we thought. So I think we'll spend a little bit less upfront for sure. They are as a business dealing with the same kind of dynamics we are.

Their fuel profitability is higher than what we had originally expected it to be, which is consistent with obviously what people are seeing overall in the industry. But we feel good about it being a net contributor of about $45 million of EBITDA to us in this fiscal year by the time the dust settles there, that will include some synergy capture, as Darren referenced, starting in the second quarter. I think we'll start with G&A and fuel and as construction progresses, we'll start to see some inside the store realization there. But most of that in fairness will probably be in the following fiscal year.

John Royall -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

Great. Thank you. And then second one is just a little more housekeeping. But can you talk about the cadence of capex and new build activity.

I know 1Q was pretty light, which I think is pretty typical historically, when you look back at historical years. But in this case, it's under 10% of the full-year guide. So if you could just talk about kind of the cadence of new build activity and how you expect it to progress through the rest of the year? That would be helpful. Thanks.

Steve Bramlage -- Chief Financial Officer

Yes. 1Q was light for sure. I think second Q will also be light. We're going to spend most of our time in the second quarter working on integrating the acquisitions, remodels, etc.

I don't think we'll have a significant number of new to industry builds come up in the second quarter. So it will be back-end loaded, and we're somewhat dependent on making sure we successfully managed through supply chain challenges on the construction side, right, getting pieces of equipment in is not any easier than stocking the warehouses for goods for resale. So it will be a back-end loaded schedule. And most of the new units that we will end up building will come up in the second half of the year.

John Royall -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

Great. Thank you very much.

Operator

Thank you. We have a question from Krisztina Katai with Deutsche Bank. Your line is open.

Krisztina Katai -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

Hi. Good morning, and congrats on a great quarter. You maintained your mid-single-digit inside sales store guidance for the year, but I was wondering if maybe you could parse out just at a higher level, how you're thinking about performance at grocery versus prepared foods now that we're a quarter and a little over a month into the year. And from a consumer behavior perspective, with the spread of delta, the kids going back into school, what are you seeing in terms of store traffic and conversion trends really going back to your stores?

Darren Rebelez -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes, Krisztina, with respect to traffic, it's -- I think it's a little bit early to tell with the back-to-school. We've kind of been back-to-school for a few days in most of our geography, and that was holiday week, and now we're just coming back. So I would say yesterday was probably our first fully back-to-school day. So we're anticipating that the traffic will improve, but we've got to get a couple more days into it before we have a real sense.

I think the wildcard on traffic to a certain extent is people returning to work. And I think a couple of months ago, pre the delta variant really getting some momentum, I think most companies were planning on returning back to work after Labor Day. And a lot of those companies have sort of pushed those plans a month or two, in some cases, have pushed all the way to the end of the calendar year. So we're just going to have to see how that progresses with the delta variant and how we do that.

All that being said, we expect to continue some momentum with the grocery category, but we will be cycling over the store resets here substantially in the third and fourth quarter. So those comps will probably soften and then we'll continue to pick up some momentum on prepared food and dispensed beverages as those traffic patterns start to return to normal. So I would say grocery is probably softening in the back half. Prepared food, maybe accelerating a bit, Steve, any -- do you want to add color to that?

Steve Bramlage -- Chief Financial Officer

Yes. No, I think the math is going to be a grocery will be below prepared food for the rest of the year, and that's just a function of the math, right, with what we're lapping from the prior year.

Krisztina Katai -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

Right. That's great. And I just wanted to follow up about how you're positioning your business going forward, now that we're more out and about, getting vaccinated. How do you plan on really holding on to some of the new customers that you have acquired? How you're thinking about layering in the loyalty program potentially in a more personalized way and promotions to drive engagement and traffic back to the stores, even as people still continue to work from home?

Darren Rebelez -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes, we're definitely going to leverage our investment in the rewards program and our digital technology. And if you think about how we've been marketing so far from a digital standpoint, we look at -- we have a kind of a blended strategy. We use a curation, which is where we market to one message to a broad swath of people to the majority of guests. And that's about 55% of what we do today.

About 30% of what we do is segmentation where we get different cohorts of guests and we have a specific promotional message to those guests. And then about 15% of it today is individualized where we tailor the message to an individual consumer based on what we anticipate their behavior to be. As we move throughout this year, we're going to shift that mix. So by the end of the year, we expect about 60% of our digital activity will be individualized to each consumer.

And then about 20% will be the more segmented approach or curation. So we're going to fundamentally shift our approach to being more targeted to individual needs and what we anticipate those needs are based on the affinities that we've seen through their purchasing behavior. And so we would expect that, that would have a positive impact and make that experience more sticky, more attractive to the guests moving forward.

Krisztina Katai -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

That's great. Thank you very much.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Brian McNamara with Berenberg Capital. Your line is open.

Brian McNamara -- Berenberg Capital Markets -- Analyst

Good morning. Thank you for squeezing me in here. You exited the quarter with private label representing about 4.4% of your grocery and general merchandise sales. Where do you see that penetration landing this fiscal year and over the medium term? And are new stores and acquired stores starting with a higher private brand penetration relative to the rest of the fleet? Thanks.

Darren Rebelez -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes, Brian. You're right, the private label exited August was 4.4% penetration rate. Our goal for the year is 5.25%. So we expect to continue that migration.

And then over time, we expect to get to 10%, but that's going to be a multiyear exercise. We've already launched 209 private label products since we've launched the program, and we have another 60 products in the pipeline. They'll be launching between now and the third quarter. So we feel confident in getting to that level of penetration.

On the new stores, I'm not sure that we're seeing any significant difference between new stores and existing stores. The acquisition stores, it's very early stages. We'll bring in those products as we convert those stores to Casey. So very early days on those.

But I would anticipate that they would reach the same mix as our more traditional stores.

Brian McNamara -- Berenberg Capital Markets -- Analyst

Great. And then just a quick follow-up. Do fuel margins, I mean, ex RINs, they're still pretty high. Do they continue to influence the M&A environment? Or are potential targets more willing to sell than they have been during this elevated fuel margin environment, given potential capital gains, tax treatment changing? Thanks.

Darren Rebelez -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes. I think you hit it -- you hit the nail on the head. I think it's less about fuel margins right now, more about just the underlying cost and complexity of operating the business today, particularly in this environment with COVID. And then compounding that is the potential of the capital gains tax changes, and I know they're talking about that as we speak.

And so we are seeing increased level of deal flow. And so we're looking at other opportunities. But yes, we expect that, that's going to be a catalyst in the near term for increased M&A activity. Did we lose you Brian?

Brian Johnson -- Senior Vice President of Investor Relations and Business Development

I think we're ready for the next question.

Brian McNamara -- Berenberg Capital Markets -- Analyst

Sorry. Thank you, guys. Appreciate it.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Karen Short with Barclays. Your line is open.

Renato Basanta -- Barclays Investment Bank -- Analyst

Hey. Good morning, guys. This is actually Renato Basanta on for Karen. Thanks for a fitting us into the call.

Just one quick one for me. Can you just talk a little bit more about the competitive landscape from a breakfast daypart perspective. And then if you could just remind us what breakfast is as a percent of prepared food sales, that would be great.

Darren Rebelez -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes, Renato. In terms of the landscape, I think -- what you saw a year ago, when once the businesses were shutting down offices were shutting and people were sheltering in place. You saw a disproportionate impact on the breakfast daypart. And that that hit everybody from the Starbucks of the world, to McDonald's, to us, to anybody that's in the morning daypart was impacted by that.

So now you fast forward a year later, I think everybody is optimistic about getting that business back to normal as more schools are in session in person and more people are returning to work than there was a year ago. So you've seen McDonald's come out with more promotional activity. Wendy's has certainly been very active in the space. Taco Bell just announced that they're bringing breakfast back after suspending it.

And so there's a lot of increased activity. So like I mentioned before, we like our position. We think we've actually got real innovation that the others don't have. They are kind of recycling what they've been doing historically.

So we think we have a niche there that we can capitalize on. Breakfast is about a third of our prepared foods business. A lot of that comes in our breakfast pizza, but a lot of other things like donuts and baked goods and coffee and sandwiches also play a big role, and that's where we've innovated is on the coffee and on the breakfast -- the other breakfast lineup. And so we'll always have that base of breakfast pizza to lean on, but we've got the innovation on top of it that we think will help us accelerate our breakfast growth.

Renato Basanta -- Barclays Investment Bank -- Analyst

Perfect. Great color. Thanks and best of luck.

Darren Rebelez -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks.

Operator

Thank you. And there's no other questions in the queue. I'd like to turn the call back to Darren Rebelez for closing remarks.

Darren Rebelez -- President and Chief Executive Officer

All right. Thank you for taking the time today to join us on the call. I'd also like to thank our team members one more time for their efforts this quarter. We're off to a great start to fiscal '22 and will continue to be nimble as we navigate through the recent Delta variant resurgence.

Fortunately, we demonstrated our ability to deliver results on our long-term strategic plan both normal times and during our global pandemic, and I'm confident we'll continue to drive shareholder value. So thank you, and have a great day.

Operator

[Operator signoff]

Duration: 68 minutes

Call participants:

Brian Johnson -- Senior Vice President of Investor Relations and Business Development

Darren Rebelez -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Steve Bramlage -- Chief Financial Officer

Bobby Griffin -- Raymond James -- Analyst

Ben Bienvenu -- Stephens Inc. -- Analyst

Bonnie Herzog -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Kelly Bania -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

Matthew Fishbein -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Chuck Cerankosky -- Northcoast Research -- Analyst

Anthony Lebiedzinski -- Sidoti & Company -- Analyst

John Royall -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

Krisztina Katai -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

Brian McNamara -- Berenberg Capital Markets -- Analyst

Renato Basanta -- Barclays Investment Bank -- Analyst

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