The Healthy Fad… I Mean Trend

May 16, 2016

I've been working in the industry for quite awhile now. When I first started, the Atkins diet was just sliding down from its peak. And as the years have gone on, other diet fads have replaced it — Glycemic Index, Paleo, Wheat Belly, etc. Looking back, was reporting about schools and municipalities eliminating soda in vending machines and turnkey healthy vending companies adding locations. In talking to longtime operators, it all seemed part of the consumer cycle and would change soon enough. I no longer think that is true, however.

Healthcare costs jump

According to a 2014 National Healthcare Expenditures Highlight Report healthcare spending increased once again in 2014 to $9,523 per person, or $3.0 trillion total. It continues to go up. Obesity is blamed for being a huge part of that increase from the greater number of illnesses it is correlated with to the negative impact it has on gross domestic product (GDP) for people who can’t work and need assistance paying medical bills. Bill Layden, partner at Foodminds and speaker at the NAMA OneShow in Chicago, IL, specifically brought up the role regulation is playing in requests for healthier items. Already, new dietary guidelines have been established, and they look different than the versions from past years. Layden commented that with 2/3 of the U.S. overweight or obese, it has become a serious economic and social problem that the government is trying to address by incentivizing changes in public health.

Campaigns abound

The programs to “incentivize” are all around. We have the First Lady’s ‘Let’s Move’ campaign, the Food and Drug Administration requiring calorie labeling in restaurants and vending machines, the U.S. Department of Agriculture limiting the types of products that can be served in school cafeterias and vending machines, classification/identification for healthy vending products, and even a revamped NAMA FitPick. The incentives, regulations, and media coverage are pushing the issue with consumers, who are changing their tune about healthy snacks and beverages. It is moving from fad to trend to quite possibly a permanent change nationwide.

How things have changed

A few years ago, I remember the forerunners telling other operators to only offer healthy items if they were asked. That it wouldn’t work if you had more than 20 percent of healthy products in a vending machine. Now, vending operators have seen growth by highlighting these products. Our success story this month is a small Vermont operator growing fast because of his healthy and locally-sourced product supply. Check out his profile on page 28.

The increased number of healthy options and indeed, the mere perception that micro markets are healthier than vending has contributed to the segment’s success. On page 22, you can read about how micro market operators describe consumers’ different views of micro markets, specifically in regards to healthy, and how the greater variety of products has increased per transaction sales. In the end healthy might be here to stay, but it is also an opportunity for a win-win.