Time-crunched Americans looking for healthy, good tasting snacks, combined with a growing obesity epidemic, have created a demand for healthier snack options. In an attempt to help Americans choose healthier snacks, product manufacturers have either reformulated or introduced new “healthier” products.
The products that have been introduced to meet this demand have had varying degrees of success, which explains why some vending operators who have used them have experienced varying degrees of success selling them.
One problem that confronts vending operators, retailers and manufacturers in addressing this market is a poor understanding of what defines a “healthy” product. If the product does not meet what the consumer deems healthy, the product will not sell.
Most often, snacks and chips have been reformulated to offer lower calories, saturated and trans fat, and/or salt. For instance, baked chips have been offered instead of a regular, full-fat chip.
Over the past decade, nutrition experts have recognized that consumers are missing out on essential nutrients during the day. The “Dietary Guidelines for Americans” provides science-based recommendations to encourage health and to reduce the risk of chronic diseases through diet and physical activity.
One key dietary recommendation is to consume a variety of nutrient-dense foods and beverages. Another recommendation is to choose foods that limit the intake
of saturated and trans fats, added sugars, and salt.
NUTRIENT-DENSE SNACKS: A CONTRADICTION IN TERMS?
Nutrient-dense foods are found naturally within the food groups: meats, dairy, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables. Nutrient-dense foods provide significant amounts of vitamins and minerals with relatively few calories. Snack foods, unlike naturally nutrient rich foods, contribute calories, but not as many nutrients.
Kids and adults snack three to four times a day,
and often a quick snack substitutes for a meal, especially breakfast. Studies have shown that as snacking increases, important nutrients are missed in the diet, which has contributed to the nutritional shortfall over the past decade.
How can kids and adults get essential nutrients that are missing to fill their nutritional gap throughout the day?
Snacks offered in vending machines can be a convenient solution for quick, healthy pick-me-ups and at the same time can improve the nutritional quality of consumers’ diets.
Vending machines aren’t devoid of healthy options
The variety of foods from which to choose in vending machines is unique. Some healthy options that are often included in vending are low-fat milk, yogurt, trail mix, and whole grain crackers.
Vending operators are looking for healthier packaged snack options to fulfill a need in today’s market as more customers desire a quick, healthy snack as an alternative to the usual snacks found in vending machines. Vendors can position themselves as healthy snack providers by utilizing a Web-based computer software program — Snackwise® — that evaluates snacks according to their nutrient density.
Vendors can help their customers fill that nutritional gap by offering healthy nutrient dense packaged snacks.
SNACKWISE® NUTRITION RATING SYSTEM EMERGES
In 2004, doctors and dietitians at The Center for Healthy Weight and Nutrition at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio developed the Snackwise® nutrition rating system. The rating system evaluates nutritional quality of snack foods based on their nutrient density.
The purpose of Snackwise® is to provide an easy method to evaluate the nutrient density of snacks based on nutrients commonly found on the nutrition facts label. Originally, Snackwise® measured 10 nutrition parameters: calories, total and saturated fats, fiber, sugar, protein, calcium, iron, and vitamin A and C. Sodium was later added, creating 11 nutritional parameters by which Snackwise® evaluates nutrient density.
2005 DIETARY GUIDELINES PROVIDE BASIS OF PROGRAM