Announcing the 2022 Readers’ Choice New Products of the Year Awards: A Winning Lineup

April 14, 2022
Automatic Merchandiser announces this year’s winners and honorees in 11 product categories.

As the country emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, many Americans are beginning to return to work in person. In the last two years, consumers have developed new habits and different food and flavor preferences. Manufacturers have continued to provide operators with equipment and products that will help them broaden their offerings, especially as companies look to operators to help incentivize employees back to the office.

This year, Automatic Merchandiser asked vending, micro market and OCS operators to vote for their most successful or most requested products and equipment that were introduced in 2021. The winners in 11 categories — salted snack, healthy, protein & meat snack, cold beverage, equipment, cookie & pastry, candy, food, technology, OCS product, OCS equipment & systems — are consistent with market trends for bolder flavors, smarter technology and premium ingredients.

The winners are: Dot’s Pretzels Honey Mustard, Soley Dried Organic Mango Pieces, Righteous Felon Craft Jerky, Celsius Holdings Tropical Vibe, 365 Retail Markets PicoMarket, McKee Foods Debbie Star Crunch, Van Wyk Confections Sweet & Salty Pretzel Rods, White Castle Chicken and Cheese Slider, Panoptyc, Alliant Coffee Solutions Authentic Donut Shop Drive Thru Soft Coffee Pods, and BUNN Fast Cup.

You can also read more about the runners-up here.


Dot’s Pretzels LLC took home the gold medal with the most votes in the Salted Snack category. The company expanded its line of pretzel twists with the new Honey Mustard variety.
This is the third seasoning in the company’s pretzel lineup, joining Dot’s Original and Southwest flavors. The flavor was launched in June 2021 after hundreds of customers submitted requests via social media for a honey mustard seasoning. The company responded and began development of the new flavor in 2020. Dot’s Honey Mustard pretzels are available for vending and micro markets in 1.5-oz. personal and 5-oz. bag sizes.

Following in a close second place is Deep River Snacks’ Zesty Lime kettle cooked chips featuring a bold lime flavor. These chips contain no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives and are cooked only in sunflower oil.


For customers looking for a healthy grab-and-go solution, look no further than Solely’s new Dried Organic Mango Pieces made with just one ingredient –
the highest-quality, ripest and most delicious mangos. Solely Dried Mango Pieces are expertly dried and cut into small pieces and contain no added sugar, preservatives or sulfites. The company’s patented drying process allows for each bite to taste as flavorful as a fresh ripe fruit. Soley’s 1-oz. pouches are the perfect portion for individual snacking. Solely has also added a Facts Up Front calorie badge specifically to this SKU to remain fully compliant for all vending machines. The suggested retail price is $1.79-$1.99.

Musselman’s Apple Sauce in cups and pouches from Knouse was the runner-up in the Healthy category.


According to Food Insight’s 2021 survey, “From ‘Chemical-Sounding’ to ‘Clean’: Consumer Perspectives on Food Ingredients,” Americans are paying more attention to ingredient lists, selecting clean ingredients over chemical-sounding ingredients.
In fact, nearly two-thirds (63%) of adults say the ingredients in a food or beverage have at least a moderate influence on what they buy. The winner in the Protein & Meat Snack category showcases these findings. Righteous Felon craft jerky is made with top-quality, hormone- and antibiotic-free beef sourced from Roseda, a celebrated Black Angus farm located in northern Maryland. Righteous Felon jerky is handmade and produced in small batches to ensure freshness, quality and consistency for the ultimate tasting experience.

Coming in second place is Baja Jerky Street Taco flavor.


In July 2021, Celsius Holdings launched its newest flavor, and the winner in AM’s Cold Beverage category, Tropical Vibe. A combination of starfruit and pineapple,
Tropical Vibe provides essential energy, has zero sugar, no preservatives, no artificial colors or flavors and has seven essential vitamins. “We are thrilled to launch Tropical Vibe to our Celsius consumers,” said John Fieldly, president and CEO of Celsius Holdings Inc., in a company announcement. “The extension of the Vibe line follows the tremendous success of our Peach Vibe launched in the summer of 2020 and is an on-trend addition we believe will not only expand our portfolio lineup but continue to appeal to a broader base of energy drink consumers seeking better-for-you functional energy.”

RISE Brewing Co. Original Black Cold Brew Coffee Multi-Serve was the runner-up in the Cold Beverage category.


In the Equipment category, 365 Retail Markets’ PicoMarket took home the gold. The 365 PicoMarket appeals to both small and large locations.
It is the most compact, full-featured self-checkout kiosk on the market. This game-changing countertop innovation transforms breakrooms into snacking sanctuaries worldwide. The PicoMarket accepts all forms of payment, including swipe/tap/chip and 365Pay app and can enhance and streamline the checkout experience in any size micro market. It offers lower startup costs than traditional vending and has quick and easy self-installation with global support.

The runner-up in the Equipment category was API Tech’s Smart Pizza vending machine.


In the Cookie & Pastry category, McKee Foods received the most votes for its reprise of Little Debbie Star Crunch, a chewy cookie topped with caramel and crispy rice, featuring a coating of fudge. The new individually wrapped cookie is 3-oz., shelf-stable and fresh date coded. They are sold in a 72-ct. case (six caddies/12 wraps per caddie).
“Operators will find this new 3-oz.-sized product to be a perfect solution for vending machines, micro markets, cafeterias and catering,” the company said in a statement.

Little Debbie parent McKee Foods introduced Little Debbie Vending in 2012 to address the sizes and packages to meet the needs of the convenience channel.

Prairie City Bakery’s new Birthday Cake Ooey Gooey Butter Cake came in second place.


Van Wyk Confections took home gold in the Candy category for its new flavor of Sweet & Salty Pretzel Rods launched in October 2021.
Crunchy Toffee Sweet & Salty Pretzel Rods were introduced after the successful rollout of the original Salted Caramel Sweet & Salty flavor. The 100-calorie pretzel rod is submerged in a creamy milk chocolate dip and covered with toffee bits. Each rod is individually wrapped and certified peanut-free. The company ships 36 rods per tub and six tubs per case (216 ct.).

AWAKE Caffeinated Bits from Awake Chocolate was the runner-up in the Candy category.


This year’s winner of the coveted Food category goes to White Castle’s Chicken and Cheese Slider.
Available in vending and micro markets, the top-selling non-beef slider in White Castle restaurants joins five other White Castle varieties that are available in grocers’ freezers and foodservice: Original Sliders, Classic Cheese Sliders, Jalapeño Cheese Sliders, Chicken Breast Sliders and the Sausage, Egg and Cheese Breakfast Slider. The Chicken and Cheese Sliders are made with all white meat and topped with American cheese.

Taking second place is J&J Snack Foods’ Pretzel Fillers Buffalo Cheddar Stuffed Soft Pretzel made with Frank’s RedHot. The soft pretzel dough is stuffed with white cheddar cheese infused with Frank’s RedHot hot sauce and lightly dusted with ranch dressing powder.


Panoptyc, this year’s winner in the Technology category, is a game-changer for micro market operators. Panoptyc leverages artificial intelligence through a software and hardware solution to recognize theft and alert the micro market operator of suspicious behavior.
The average micro market that deploys Panoptyc’s technology has gained 255% theft reduction, which translates to thousands of dollars a year, per market, back in the operator’s pocket. The company says its goal is to reduce shrink for market operators, help them overcome customer theft, and save countless hours that employees spend watching footage.

Launched in May 2021, ePort Engage from Cantaloupe Inc. was the runner-up in the Technology category.


Alliant Coffee Solutions’ Authentic Donut Shop Drive Thru soft coffee pods garnered the most votes in the OCS Product category. Alliant Coffee Solutions’ back-to-basics coffee line features a milder taste profile and no-frills packaging for larger work environments that want it at all:
specialty coffee quality, single-cup convenience and unbeatable value. Bulk cases eliminate the cost and hassle of smaller cartons for high-volume kitchens. Retail-style countertop dispenser boxes offer a convenient, space-saving way to give everyone easy access to great coffee. Donut Shop Drive Thru soft coffee pods are made from 100% specialty-grade Arabica coffee and offered in three flavor profiles: Breakfast Blend, Americano Dark and French Vanilla.

Compostable K-Cup Compatible Coffee Pods from Smile Beverage Werks took second place in the OCS Product category.


Coffee consumption has soared to a two-decade high, according to findings from the National Coffee Association (NCA).
The Spring 2022 National Coffee Data Trends (NCDT) report found that 66% of Americans now drink coffee each day. The report also found that Americans have increased coffee consumption away from home by 8% since January 2021. It’s no surprise that BUNN’s Fast Cup won the most votes in the OCS Equipment & Systems category. Fast Cup is a high-performance bean-to-cup system featuring an intuitive touchscreen experience and fresh-brewed coffee by the cup, hot or cold, in about 30 seconds. The Fast Cup produces practically no coffee waste, ensuring all beans are brewed into the cup. With three bean selections, a variety of cup sizes and options for hot and iced coffee, Fast Cup delivers versatility from a single platform.

Introduced in April 2021, the Elkay Smartwell Touchless Countertop Beverage Dispenser came in second place.

Check out all of these products in the Product Guide at


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