Profiles In Excellence

Health-conscious vending has arrived. NAMA has Balanced for Life, VendingMarketWatch.com announces school-mandated restrictions on vendible products daily, and consumers are requesting more baked, limited-calorie snacks. The drinks market is no exception, and on the upward swing is a unique drink that is as convenient as it is low in calories.

Crystal Light is available to OCS operators in single-serve packets for 8 ounces of water or the newer On The Go packet style for use with 20-ounce bottles of water. The 5-calorie per 8-ounce serving, powdered drink mix is considered a win for all.

Positive consumer reaction

"We saw the product at a NAMA convention day one and got excited about it," said Kirby Newbury, CEO of Discount Coffee.com, Lake Saint Louis, Mo., an Internet discount coffee and allied product distributor. "We saw the application."

Newbury's customers love it. For example, a lot of people who work out like to have a bottle of water at hand, which makes this a great product for them, said Newbury. Diabetes is more of a concern today, and with Crystal Light being sugar-free, it's a nice drink alternative for those affected. "If you're not in the On the Go business for bottled water, you're missing the boat," said Newbury.

Randy Parks, president of Prostar Services, Carrollton, Texas, said, "They (customers) obviously enjoy having something more interesting than plain water. It's the spice of life." The market, once dominated by carbonated beverages, is now moving to non-carbonated beverages. Crystal Light is ideal for that reason, said Parks. "It's a continuously growing product for us as our consumers shift away from carbonated beverages." Plus, any item that is low in fat and low in calories is on the rise in the current environment. People are more concerned about health, added Parks.

Opportunity for driving sales

This trend hasn't been lost on locations. Employers purchasing Crystal Light also see it as a benefit they can offer to their employees, said Parks. It's a nice supplement to a plain glass of water, he said.

Gus Kroustalis, gourmet coffee manager of Gallins Vending, Winston Salem, N.C., noticed Crystal Light has generated the most excitement with employers who want to give their employees extra perks. "Having Crystal Light as a part of the product group can include everyone," he said, "because not everyone is a coffee drinker. It's a great tool to have for sales and customer service because you please more people with it than without it." Kroustalis noted health is in the news and people want taste without sacrificing calories. "They are drinking the water they should and adding flavor to it. It's not a hard sell."

Becky Palmer, warehouse manager of the jail commissary run by Mid America Services, Dallas, Texas, said revenues went up 37 percent when Mid America Services started offering Crystal Light. Since the inmates aren't allowed bottled drinks, the Crystal Light singles are a great option they can mix with a glass of water, explained Palmer.

Crystal Light not only sells itself, but with the addition of On The Go packets, it is also selling bottled water. James Barber, purchasing and warehouse manager, Classic Food Service, Durham, N.C., said "We've been marketing it through our OCS sales to coincide with our Dasani sales." Crystal Light has helped to move not only product, but also water sales since it utilizes the 20-ounce bottles, added Barber.

With a case of water, On The Go is a great product and one we should always offer said Kroustalis. He often gives away a box of Crystal Light with a case of purchased water, and not just to locations who aren't using Crystal Light, but as customer appreciation. His results make it worth it.

A motivational sales tool

Used as an allied product for drivers and salespeople, Crystal Light is a big opportunity, said Newbury. Drivers can take sales a step further with product placement. "Train drivers to get the boxes out of the cabinet and on the countertop," said Newbury. Put them near the water cooler or get creative. The boxes are great, with bright colors and appealing graphics, he added.

Hav-A-Cup in Hickory, N.C. has spurred sales by having drivers compete in a contest, noted Lester Lail, vice president of the company. "The product did good business before, but we wanted more," said Lail. Using the hangers for the On The Go packages connected to the 20-ounce bottles, Lail had his drivers give away samples.

"I know there will be return sales," he said. Very pleased with the results of the contest, already in its third week, Lail expects to double the amount of sales for both Crystal Light and water.

Having dif­ferent flavors for customers to choose from is one of the product's key selling points, said Kroustalis. When customers ask Kroustalis' drivers about getting Crystal Light, the driver can turn right around and say, "Yes, we carry it. What flavor would you like?" "Customers always like to know there's variety," said Kroustalis.

Multiple flavors also mean additional sales, said Newbury. "If you are going to carry one, carry them all." After introducing the Peach Iced Tea, Newbury was surprised to see it nose-to-nose with lemonade, the historically No.1 flavor. Newbury has high expectations for orange sunrise as well.

But the success goes beyond the taste. On The Go is an apt name for the new Crystal Light product, said Parks, who believes the new style meets the needs of his customers' lifestyles. It's easy to use, quickly dissolving into water with little hassle, adding to its success. Crystal Light doesn't have to be refrigerated, and it meets the needs of health-conscious consumers, he added.

Kroustalis also likes the fact that Crystal Light is not just a seasonal product. Coffee sales dip during the summer months and there are always people that don't drink it. Crystal Light offers something drivers can push during this part of the year, which can then be enjoyed by the customer year-round. "This is one of the few products that's a win-win for everyone involved," he said.

Kraft brings brand equity

The popularity of Crystal Light is additionally attributed to the Kraft name. "I think branding is a huge part of consumer confidence," said Parks. "And there's no better brand than Kraft when it comes to quality product." Kraft delivers a consistent product consumers can count on to be the same each time they use it, said Parks.

Barber added that Kraft really did its homework as far as package size and convenience are concerned. "Good packaging, good concept," said Barber. The Kraft logo is well known and makes people comfortable enough to try Crystal Light the first time, which is followed by repeat business, he said.

Kraft offers more than just a name and a logo; it also offers great service. "Our rep is awesome. He provides us with knowledge of the product, point-of-sale material and tips from his experience," said Kroustalis. "In paying for OCS products, you're also paying for what the salesperson can offer."

"Aramark Refreshment Services sees Crystal Light as a natural extension to our extensive portfolio of office refreshment products and services," said Barry Bleahen, director of marketing for Aramark. "It has proven to be an excellent complement to the AquaMark water filtration systems we offer nationwide. Crystal Light provides our clients' employees with even more variety in their office refreshment services, as yet another option they can enjoy besides the typical hot beverages and water offerings available in many workplace environments."

For more information, visit Kraft Vending & OCS online at kraftvendingocs.com.

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