Executives at Casey’s General Stores say the convenience store chain had a "record year" in the midst of the recession, fueled in part by strong sales of fountain pop, pizza, donuts and other food made inside Casey’s stores.

The company’s fiscal year ended April 30th and Bill Walljasper, the company’s chief financial officer, delivered the company’s financial report to investors and the media this morning.

"Despite a more challenging economic environment, sales continue to be solid inside our stores," Walljasper said.

The chain saw a nine percent increase in sales of fountain pop and food made in store — like Casey’s pizza. Walljasper credits, in part, a deal Casey’s cut to control the cost of cheese for its pizzas. Casey’s is currently paying roughly 40 cents less, per pound, for cheese than it was paying a year ago.

Casey’s, of course, sells gasoline as well. Total sales at Casey’s pay-at-the-pump machines and inside at Casey’s cash registers helped the chain post record earnings for the last fiscal year according to Walljasper.

"For the year, total sales were up 7.1 percent to $1 billion and gross profit grew over 8 percent to over $338 million," he said. "Same store sales continued to be strong in May, up 9.9 percent."

In addition to the traditional Casey’s fare of pizza and donuts, made-to-order sandwiches are now available in a few stores.

"We’re going to roll out another 200 to 300 iced coffee machines. You’re going to see another 200 to 300 ten-head fountain (pop) machines to replace some older, six-head machines. Both of those endeavors have been very successful for us," Walljasper said. "…Also, later in the fiscal year, probably some time this fall, we’re looking to introduce products such as dessert pizza. We’ve testing that for a while and it certainly has been successful."

Casey’s General Stores owns and operates more than 1400 convenience stores in nine Midwestern states, including Iowa. The company’s headquarters is in Ankeny.