Gallins’ micro market customers also appreciate freshness as well as a greater variety of healthy items. “We’re able to offer more diverse salads,” said Cauble. Instead of typical iceberg lettuce, Gallins offers spinach or mixed greens salads with fresh vegetables. Also, the micro market salads are larger by two ounces, but look substantially bigger due to better packaging. “Without the space limitations of the food vendor, we are able to put the salads in larger, nicer looking containers to improve the look and presentation,” said Cauble. He has noticed the micro market customer is more receptive to higher price points if there’s fresh product variety and healthy options. “[Conversely,] there is a lower threshold on what customers are willing to pay for something out of a vending machine, regardless of the ingredients,” added Cauble.
Spoilage remains an issue
Of course one challenge presented by an increase in fresh food is spoilage. Cauble noted that when Gallins’ micro market drivers were first stocking food, they would put new products in the back and move older products forward. But customers quickly realized this and started taking product from the rear of the cooler — which increased spoilage. Because of this, Gallins started mixing the dated fresh food in the cooler, instead of organizing by oldest to newest. It has helped, according to Cauble, but hasn’t solved the problem entirely. “For anyone wanting to go into markets, there’s not a one size fits all solution to spoilage — it’s an ongoing problem,” he added.
Careful ordering is another way Gallins handles spoilage. “We don’t keep a stock here at our warehouse,” said Cauble, “so when we order food, we have to be aware of what’s happening at our different market locations, such as when they have something going on that will affect the volume...that’s why we have our open market manager.” The open market manager is responsible for communicating with micro market clients about events happening on location that will change the markets’ activity. If there’s a catered lunch, for example, Gallins’ won’t stock as much food. The manager also monitors how individual items are selling, so slow movers can be rotated out or discontinued.
Fresh food represents a third of Gallins overall micro market sales. The best selling points of a micro market to the location are that the products can include fresh food, be healthier, as well as larger with more diverse ingredients. “It’s a better way to present it to them…that’s one thing that grabs their attention,” said Cauble. “They can pick it up and handle the product instead of looking through a window at it.”
Cauble believes that in the end, micro markets really overcome the uncertainty end users still have about buying food from a vending machine.
As micro markets bring fresh food back to profitability for vending operators, they are discovering it’s possible to have a good food program without a commissary. It takes proper sourcing, warehouse changes and food temperature monitoring, but the increase in micro market sales helps operators make the commitment.