Since consumers are the ultimate customer of all vending and micro market operators, it’s important to look at their food and beverage preferences. Many of these eating trends have come and gone, but one that seems to have some staying power is the movement towards ‘healthy’ and better-for-you items.
More than a quarter of Americans (30%) claim to usually only snack on healthy foods and almost half (45%) of those consumers claim that nutritional value is the most important factor in the foods they eat.
While there seems to be endless data that shows that customers are moving towards a ‘healthier’ diet, every operator’s experience with this movement is different—based on region, location and on location demographics. I’ve heard operators say, “Healthy items sell well one place and not at all somewhere else”. It’s a crapshoot. A product trial and error.
Although traditional items are still top-sellers in micro markets and vending, consumers should have a choice and are looking for that choice. So if you haven’t already, we recommend taking a look at your SKUs and adding some better-for-you options. The movement isn’t going away anytime soon.
I was recently on a call with an operator who had a great better-for-you snack and beverage program for vending and micro markets. They had been early adopters of offering healthy items and the company was getting guidance from a nutritionist and working to create programs with hospitals and companies with corporate wellness plans. Although the program has morphed since it began 15 years ago, the operator noted that people are indeed buying better-choice items. One reason is that the better-for-you items have transformed in the last decade. “They used to taste like cardboard,” the operator told me. Today manufacturers are offering great-tasting lines of snack mixes, bars, teas and waters. In fact this particular operator was about to offer coconut water.
Not only is the taste getting better, but the availability of these items is growing as well.
For example, PepsiCo recently revealed its Hello Goodness vending initiative, with vending units offering good- and better-for-you product choices from the company's food and beverage portfolio. Not only are companies offering healthy items, many are changing their product to fit these shifting consumer preferences.
From the field
Specifically in the industry, many vending and micro market operators have found ways to incorporate better-for-you items in their planograms, even if they aren’t top-sellers. In vending that might mean creating an entire ‘healthy’ planogram for companies with a wellness focus. Or it may mean offering several spirals of trendy (i.e. products that don’t taste like cardboard), better-for-you items with a sticker indicating they are ‘healthier’.
Micro markets have more real estate for better-for-you products and the customers can pick up the product and read the label, which is why sales of ‘healthy’ items in micro markets can be surprising. One recommendation is placing all better-for-you items in one location and drawing attention to the area with signage.
Health concerns are at the forefront of these changes, and have had perhaps the greatest impact on new and emerging trends in the food and beverage industry, says Packaged Facts. Regardless of the reasons for its growth, the healthy food movement is predicted to continue into 2016.