Snacking is now a normal part of the American diet. Technomic reports that 83 percent of consumers snack daily, which is the highest percentage Technomic has on record. The research group also found that snacking happens between meals and during meal times, driven by the "quickening pace" of life as well as an "increasingly widespread" belief that snacks are part of a "healthful diet."
How consumers define "snack" has also changed. It now includes a broader array of items, many of them blurring the line of what is considered a snack and a meal item. The desire for healthy snacks has led to consumers being drawn to refrigerated snacks and food items, instead of focusing on shelf stable bagged or boxed products. This is evidenced by the NPD group, which reports the shifting of consumers towards fresh foods, such as fresh fruit and refrigerated yogurt, which are among the top snack foods included in main meals.
In the vending and micro market industry, snacking has shown signs of this evolution as well. In the 2017 Automatic Merchandiser State of the Vending Industry report, operators were asked about food sales, which includes many refrigerated snack foods. A majority reported an increase in revenues for the food segment, with 25 percent of micro market revenues being from food. Over a third, 33.5 percent, of those foods were reported to be frozen and/or refrigerated items.
In a video explaining the consumer preference for fresh food in micro markets, supplier 365 Retail Markets noted that refrigerated foods were some of the top sellers in 2016. String cheese was number one, with hard boiled eggs and veggie/cheese snack trays also making the top five in the fresh food category.
Overcoming price barriers
While there may be a hesitation to provide refrigerated snacks due to the higher cost of the products and spoilage concerns, it is what the micro market consumer expects. According to a prominent research study on the evolution of micro markets in 2013, nearly 80 percent of micro market customers liked the variety of products offered in micro markets versus a vending machine. The availability of food was the third most frequently given reason for the preference of a micro market. Brad Bachtelle, owner of Bachtelle, who reported on the research, also indicated that the average transaction price was $1.89, higher than what operators typically see in vending machines. This would suggest that micro market customers are willing to pay more for the variety and products, making it easier to recoup higher product costs.
Shorter shelf life is trending
Because consumers are opting for natural, minimally processed foods, according to findings in Nielsen's Global Health and Wellness Report, they are avoiding preservatives and additives, such as those in some shelf-stable items. This makes refrigerated foods that do not include these preservatives and additives ideal for micro markets. In fact, for food snacks, consumers are willing to purchase more. Technomic reports that 33 percent of consumers say they would purchase snacks more often at restaurants if they were healthier options. Imagine how having those healthful snack options in the on-site micro market would impact sales.
Convenient grab-and-go food that doubles as a snack is the new normal. Busy lifestyles and the need for work-life balance are making snacking a predictable consumption pattern for today's micro market customer. Ensure your coolers are stocked with the healthful, refrigerated food options that your customers are willing to pay a premium to buy.
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