2020 Readers' Choice New Products Of The Year Awards: The Titans Of Innovation

April 24, 2020

It is our pleasure to announce the products that readers have voted as the 2020 Products of the Year. Automatic Merchandiser annually asks our readers to select their favorite, most requested or bestselling products from all new products launched within the convenience service industry throughout 2019.

This year, we received dozens of entries for the following 10 categories: Salted Snack, Protein or Meat Snack, Healthy/FitPick®, Cold Beverage, Cookie & Pastry, Candy, Food, Technology, Equipment and Coffee Products. Readers then selected their top picks in the survey, which was promoted through email, print and social media over the course of two weeks.    

The winners — Frito Lay North America, Fiorucci Foods, Conagra, LaCroix, Mondelēz International Foodservice, Tyson Foodservice, Gimme, U-Select-It and Bravilor Bonamat — provided innovative products that met customers’ demand for excellence. We hereby recognize the resulting products of these manufacturers’ efforts.

Salted snack

The winner for the Salted Snack category in this year’s Readers’ Choice awards was LAY’S® Poppables™ White Cheddar Flavored Potato Snacks from Frito Lay North America, which is part of PepsiCo’s food and beverage portfolio.

These perfectly popped products were introduced to vending in January 2019. Seasoned with white cheddar inside and out, these crispy potato puffs are light and airy. With 28 pieces per serving size, the snack indulges consumers’ desire to keep it close at hand.

“We’re always working to stay ahead of the curve on what consumers want from their snacking options,” said Tyler Chapman, senior vice president of foodservice, Frito Lay North America. “We’re thrilled to see how well-received Lay’s Poppables White Cheddar is in vending and beyond. We look forward to introducing other innovative brands and flavors in the future to this channel.”    

Protein or meat snack

For the second year, Automatic Merchandiser has included a Protein or Meat Snack category in the Readers’ Choice New Products of the Year Awards. This year, Fiorucci’s AllNatural Appetaggios took gold.

This product was launched in August 2019 in automatic retail channels. The series includes a selection of peach or cranberry infused mozzarella cheese hand-wrapped with a slice of traditionally aged hard salami or prosciutto. Each of the four pairings presents a delicious combination of sweet and salty and are 100% all natural. Appetaggios are available in 16/1.5 oz. packages and are ready-to-eat, making them an excellent option for snacking.

“We are honored to accept Automatic Merchandiser’s Readers’ Choice Award for Best New Product in the Protein and Meat Snacking Category,” said Stephen Docherty, marketing analyst at Fiorucci Foods. “We pride ourselves in bringing new, innovative products that are both indulgent and healthy to our loyal consumers. We look forward to continuing our innovation efforts and bringing the true taste of Italy to passionate customers around the world.”     


This year, the Sea Salt variety of DAVID Energy-Packed Snack Mix, a Conagra product, achieved the top spot for the Healthy/FitPick® category. The product is a craveable and crunchy energy-packed mix of lentils, sunflower kernels, pumpkin pepitas and chickpeas.

The Sea Salt variety, this year’s entry from the company, is one of three proven flavors, which also include Ranch and Bar-B-Q. Each mix contains 7 grams of protein and only 1-2 grams of sugar per serving. A gluten-free snack, the mix also nixes artificial flavors and colors. It is made in a peanut and tree-nut free facility.

“We are so honored to be chosen by your readers for this award,” said Suzanne Tenuto, manager, category marketing at Conagra. “As consumers become more health conscious, we’re glad we can offer them a product that is plant-based, nut free, low in sugar, and an excellent source of fiber, while still providing a highly satisfying snacking experience. It’s the perfect go-to for vending and micro market patrons looking for a healthy afternoon boost.”     

Cold beverage

LaCroix’s addition of Hi-Biscus to its lineup of cold beverages earned the top grade in its class in this year’s competition.

Hi-Biscus by LaCroix adds the delicate essence of the hibiscus flower to sparkling water, to the enthusiastic response of consumers and retailers alike. With zero calories, zero sweeteners and zero sodium, LaCroix Hi-Biscus delights the taste buds with pleasing floral aroma and exquisite taste. Hi-Biscus joins 27 innovative sparkling flavors of LaCroix.

Cookie & pastry

NUTTER BUTTER Fudge Covered, a new take on a longtime fan favorite, was the winner for the Cookie & Pastry category this year.

This classic NUTTER BUTTER cookie covered in delicious, rich chocolate fudge is an ideal way to add something sweet to snacktime. NUTTER BUTTER Cookies are made with real peanut butter and are low in saturated fats. They are cholesterol free and kosher certified.

“We were highly delighted to see this innovative and excellent product win the Cookie and Pastry 2020 Readers’ Choice Award,” said Malcolm McAlpine, business manager, branded snacks and confections, Mondelēz International Foodservice. “NUTTER BUTTER is an iconic and great-tasting cookie — what could be better than enrobing it in chocolate fudge? This product is a perfect fit for the micro market category and is a great snack for consumers to share.”     


Customers across the country enjoyed the recently debuted candy SOUR PATCH KIDS Heads, from Mondelēz International, Inc., which won the Candy category.

“The Mondelēz Vending Team are very pleased to see SOUR PATCH KIDS Heads win the Candy 2020 Readers’ Choice Award,” said McAlpine. “The SOUR PATCH Marketing Group are always developing exciting new variations of this top-selling candy. SOUR PATCH KIDS Heads offers a new take on the classic candy, keeping spirals in vending machines and slots in micro markets fresh and appealing to the customer.”

This innovative product allows customers three new ways to enjoy the “sour, then sweet” gummy candy. Each piece can be bitten in half to savor the individual flavors, eaten as an entire piece for a new fun-filled combination or paired with SWEDISH FISH Tails for the ultimate candy duo. SOUR PATCH KIDS Heads are available in a 5-ounce bag.


Launched in April 2019, Jimmy Dean® Frittata Sandwiches from Tyson Foodservice offer a delicious, “better-for-you” option operators can incorporate into their vending and micro market offerings.

Each Jimmy Dean® Frittata Sandwich has only 7 to 14 grams of carbs and is a great source of protein that will help power health-conscious consumers all day long. Flavors include Jimmy Dean® Florentine Frittata with Turkey Sausage and Cheese; Jimmy Dean® Florentine Frittata with Chicken and Cheese; and Jimmy Dean® Farmer Frittata with Sausage and Cheese.

“Tyson Foodservice has an unwavering commitment to delivering innovative, trenddriven products to operators,” said Bethany Runyan-Meadows, senior manager, channel & customer development for Tyson Foodservice. “As all-day breakfast continues to be a hot trend among consumers, Jimmy Dean® Frittata Sandwiches help meet the ever-growing demand for ‘better-for-you’ breakfast options that can be consumed at any time of day. We are honored to receive recognition from voters within the vending and micro market industry for this exciting award.”    


Gimme VMS placed first in the Technology category this year. Launched in August 2019, Gimme VMS manages operations for micro markets, vending and office coffee service, bringing unprecedented efficiency as a mobile-first application for iOS devices. VMS data is synchronized between online devices in real time. The technology supports multiple warehouses and ensures stable operation when offline.

As another important feature, multi-variable reporting allows for fast and easy report generation. Gimme VMS can replace operators’ former VMS in stages or all at once, with integrations to cashless, coin counters, LightSpeed Automation and 365 Retail Markets. This translates into optimized merchandising, increased route and warehouse efficiency, and complete inventory control from warehouse to points of sale from day one.

“Our industry is interested and ready for innovation. Gimme VMS is built on a brand-new technical foundation and is the only platform for AI [artificial intelligence],” Cory Hewett, CEO and co-founder of Gimme, said. “To put it in perspective, 75% of our core technology didn’t even exist in the public domain 24 months ago. We are proud of this product and excited to see it positively impact this market.”    


The winner this year for the Equipment category was PUSH-IT, a new tray delivery system by U-Select-It.

The vending machine equipment allows operators to increase profitability by vending larger, high margin products while creating operating efficiencies. With no coils, PUSH-IT allows for greater capacity per selection. The equipment is adaptable to a wide variety of premium products, including different types, sizes and weights. Selections are easily and quickly re-configurable without additional parts and PUSH-IT is reversible to accommodate extra-wide products. The tray delivery system provides a quicker restocking process than coils and eliminates missed or empty slots occurring during the restock process. Additionally, customers can see the products face-on with no tilt or label obstruction.

“For over 88 years, USI has been a leader in quality, innovation and versatility driven by the changing needs of our customers and a continually evolving market. The PUSH-IT tray system is a prime example of USI responding to our clients’ needs to better merchandise product while allowing for flexible, easy re-configuration in-field and providing operational efficiencies,” said Jim Chico, vice president, global sales at U-Select-It. “With PUSH-IT, clients can instantly change selection configuration width at no expense and with no additional parts required. In addition, the absence of coils dramatically speeds up restocking, increasing productivity.”

Coffee products

The SEGO™ (pronounced SAY GO!) from Bravilor Bonamat won the Coffee Products category in this year’s competition.

The newest member of the Bravilor Bonamat bean-to-cup family, the SEGO™ provides a super-efficient brewing operation that offers 30 drink options in a small yet mighty machine. It fits in perfectly with the bean-to-cup trend in OCS and the sophisticated food and beverages offerings in corporations throughout the U.S.

Sold at a game-changing low price, the SEGO™ delivers a quick return on investment. With the SEGO™ in their equipment portfolio, operators can now target small- to mid-sized offices with a bean-to-cup solution that makes financial sense. The SEGO™ is low profile (23 inches high) and crafts perfect bean-to-cup espresso beverages using a patented rotational CIRCO Brewer, extracting delicious espresso drinks in one swift motion.

“We are incredibly thankful to have won this award,” said Arjan de Groot, vice president of Bravilor Bonamat North America. “From the start, demand for the SEGO™ has been impressive. Our customers have really embraced the high return-on-investment opportunities the SEGO™ delivers. The SEGO™ perfectly matches the coffee experience today’s end-user is looking for in a small-but-mighty bean-to-cup brewer. This is a great honor, and we couldn’t have won this without the support of our amazing clients.” The bean-to-cup coffee product launched in January 2019.    

Congratulations to the winners of the 2020 Readers’ Choice New Products of the Year awards!