The popularity of Hispanic items is something Manny Gonzales, national sales manager of Raybern Foods LLC, can attest to. “(There’s a) growing acceptance of Hispanic products into mainstream America,” he said. He refers to enchilada dinners and burritos, as well as flavored chips and Mexican drinks.
“In summary, positive changes are good for the industry if we want to grow our sales and satisfy our customers’ demands for unique products and flavors,” said Gonzales. “We must think globally.”
An innovative way to offer food products to more vending customers is being touted by Hormel Foods Corp.’s Regan Schultz, national sales manager for vending. The Hormel Compleats line of entrees have an 18-month shelf life and require no refrigeration. “Lots of operators have turned to us to give customers a food option in a snack machine,” said Schultz. The Compleats products fit in an 8-count spiral or a 10-count if it’s a double helix.
Brokers tell him most new sales in the last 12 to 18 months have been in snack machines.
Health trend also drives sales
In addition, some of the Compleats, known as the green line, are USDA approved for a healthy lifestyle and are National Automatic Merchandising Association “Fit Pick” approved. These products help operators satisfy requests for better-for-you items. In fact, Schultz said three of the green line flavors have broken into the top 10 best selling Compleats flavors overall.
Dale Dearstyne, national sales manager for vending at Deli Express, said a new packaging process allows for an increased shelf life (from 12 days to 30 days) for all sandwiches. “They’ve done better due to that point of difference,” said Dearstyne.
He acknowledges it’s been a tough two years for vending food sales, but it looks like sales are recovering.
“I’m seeing sales increasing,” said Dearstyne, “Brokers are more successful getting new products in front of the customer, but it’s got a long way to go.”
One trend that surprised Dearstyne was the XXL half pound sandwiches Deli Express introduced. He was concerned about the $2.75/$3.00 price point they would carry, but they’ve been good sellers in the vending channel. “Maybe it’s the different shape/color,” said Dearstyne “…or maybe it’s that the customer sees it as added value.” A customer might consider the XXL sandwich a good value when they see it next to a 4-ounce sandwich for $2.00. The 9-ounce sandwich is only $0.75 to $1.00 more.
While Landshire Inc. hasn’t seen a dramatic decline in food sales in vending, Ken Landreth, national director of wholesale and vending, recognizes it’s not up as much as it had been in the previous nine years, nor as much as for c-stores.
He is saddened by the trend, because vending offers so much more than c-stores. “They sell the same brands as c-stores, but they’re right there at the location. They need to do a better job of educating their customer,” said Landreth.
Steve Carvel, national sales manager for Buddy’s Kitchen, thinks the historic mocking of vending products on television keeps people from buying the product, as well as not being able to physically touch and pick up the package. “People who try vending machine food are, I think, pleasantly surprised,” he said, “but the majority don’t even try it.”
While Carvel occasionally gets asked about healthier items, he believes the vending customer mainly wants to satisfy a craving. For Buddy’s Kitchen, the larger size meals are most popular.
Food sales will continue to increase as the economy recovers and employees spend more on food at work. Offering quality products and larger products at premium price points as well as offering mini handheld foods are ways operators can regain the consumer food dollar from competing channels of trade.
For more information, contact:
Buddy’s Kitchen, www.buddyskitchen.com, 952-894-2540
Deli Express, www.deliexpress.com, 952-949-1430
Don Miguel, Mexican Foods, www.donmiguel.com, 714-634-8441 ext. 1262
Hormel Foods Corp., www.hormel.com, 507-437-5443
Landshire Inc., www.landshire.com, 618-398-8122
Pierre Foods Inc., www.pierrefoods.com, 513-682-7108
Raybern Foods LLC, 714-227-3107