The stakes are high, the action fast and furious, and the results always exciting. The 2005 Automatic Merchandiser Readers' Choice Products of the Year featured two first-time winners, three recaptured first place titles, and three returning winners. This year's first-time winners are: Cloverhill Bakery's Big Texas Cinnamon Roll and Nestl? USA's Butterfinger Crisp.
This year also witnessed the most products to recapture top honors than ever. The three reclaiming winners are: Kellogg's Food Away From Home Famous Amos Chocolate Chip, Foodservice and Vending Sales' CHEETOS, and PepsiCo's PEPSI Cola.
There were also three returning winners: Masterfoods, USA's SNICKERS Bar, Nestl? USA's Nesquik Chocolate Milk and Pierre Foods' Big Az Beef Charbroil with Cheese.
For the second consecutive year, this year's competition included more electronic nominations -- via the magazine's website, www.AMonline.com -- than those that were mailed in or faxed. Readers faxed in and mailed ballots that were attached to the cover of the January issue of the magazine and inserted into the February issue.
Readers were asked to select their best selling, most profitable and most requested products.
2005: more nominations than ever
In 2005, the annual contest once again fielded more nominations in all six product categories than ever before.
Masterfoods, USA's SNICKERS Bar remains the contest's only undefeated winning product, as indicated on the historical charts on page 100. SNICKERS Bar also maintains the distinction of being the all-time top vote getter for all products.
This year also marks SNICKERS' 75th anniversary.
Masterfoods, USA's M&M'S Peanut Chocolate Candies took runner-up honors in the candy category.
This year, Kellogg's Food Away From Home Famous Amos Chocolate Chip recaptured its winning position in the cookie category. The cookie was upset for the first time last year by Masterfoods, USA's COOKIES&. COOKIES& also won top honors in the new product competition last year.
Famous Amos Chocolate Chip was not the only product to reclaim first place honors this year.
CHEETOS from Foodservice and Vending Sales reclaimed first place honors in the salted snack competition from Kar Nuts Sweet 'N Salty Mix, which held that position for two straight years. CHEETOS has been a periodic winner in the category, having taken first place in 1994, 1996, 1998, and 2001.
DORITOS, another Foodservice and Vending Sales product, won the salted snack competition in 2002.
Kar Nuts Sweet 'N Salty Mix took runner-up honors in the salted snack category. The product also took runner-up honors in 2002.
Health appeal plays a role
Kar Nuts has emerged as a serious contender in the salted snack category in recent years. Operators have credited the popularity of the Sweet 'N Salty Mix to its health appeal. Vending operators have consistently stated that consumers will choose better-for-you snacks if they have good taste, attractive packaging, and competitive pricing.
Pastry competition gets fierce
First-time winner Big Texas Cinnamon Roll from Cloverhill Bakery, last year's runner-up in the pastry category, also unseated a long-time winner, Mrs. Freshley's Jumbo Honey Bun, this year's runner-up.
Mrs. Freshley's Jumbo Honey Bun had a five-year winning streak beginning in 2000 in the pastry category. The product also enjoyed a two-year winning streak in 1997 and 1998.
Big Az name stakes a claim
This year marks the second consecutive winning year for Pierre Foods' Big Az Beef Charbroil with Cheese and the third time the product has won the top honors in the hotly contested food category.
Big Az Beef Charbroil with Cheese also grabbed top food honors in 2002.
Meat and cheese sandwiches have grabbed seven of the 12 first place prizes in the food category. Pierre Foods has fielded six of the 12 food category winners.
Nestl? Hand Helds Pizza Hot Pockets and Tony's 5" Pepperoni Pizza from Schwan's Food Service shared runners-up honors in this year's food competition.
PEPSI Cola stages a comeback
This year also featured a returning first place winner in the beverage category as PepsiCo's PEPSI Cola unseated Coca-Cola Classic. Coca-Cola Classic enjoyed a five-year winning streak that began in 2000. The product also held a three-year winning streak from 1996 through 1998 before being upset in 1999 by PepsiCo's Mountain Dew.
PEPSI Cola won the top spot in the first two years of the contest, 1994 and 1995. PEPSI Cola has been the runner-up in the beverage category every year it did not win.
NESQUIK Chocolate Milk won the dairy category competition for the third straight year, and has won every year since the dairy category was launched in 2001 except for 2002, when NESQUIK Strawberry Milk won.
This year, Shamrock Farms 12-ounce Chocolate mmmmilk took runner-up honors in the dairy product contest.
Nestl? USA's Butterfinger Crisp took the new product honors this year. This is the only category that by design has a first time winner every year. Masterfoods, USA's M&M'S Bite-Size Cookies took runner-up honors in the category.
Butterfinger Crisp's success in vending mirrors its performance in overall retail. The product was the leading retail seller during the Halloween season, according to retail research.
Winners to be honored in Las Vegas
The winners and runners-up will be presented awards at the Automatic Merchandiser Awards Breakfast at the NAMA Spring Expo in Las Vegas, along with winners of the 2004 People of the Year contest, who graced the cover of the December 2004 issue.
The Automatic Merchandiser awards breakfast has been held at the Spring Expo every year since the contest began in 1994. The breakfast has become one of the most popular events at Spring Expo.
Winners and runners-up are invited to address the gathering and use it as an opportunity to thank their customers and colleagues.
Automatic Merchandiser encourages all operators at Spring Expo to congratulate the winners and runners-up at their booths.