Candy and snacks are essential offerings in vending, micro markets and pantry service. We know how much people love taking a break during the workday to enjoy a treat, whether that’s something savory or sweet. But with the increasing popularity of diets such as keto, gluten-free, plant-based and low-sugar, those who work in the convenience service industry have to ensure they’re offering a variety of options to meet their clients’ distinct needs.

Tradition is king, but clients still want better-for-you products

Three years ago, the FDA announced the new Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods that was intended to make it easier for consumers to make better-informed decisions about the food they eat. That same year, the FDA also enforced new rules around vending calorie disclosure, which required vending machine operators with more than 20 machines to provide calorie declarations for items in which the Nutrition Facts label cannot be viewed before purchasing.

While some operators and suppliers worried that consumers would bypass traditional candy or snack items and opt for the increasing amount of better-for-you choices on the market, this hasn’t necessarily been the case. Tim Greble, director of markets at One Source Office Refreshments, revealed that while their most recent stats show that sales are up in micro markets, better-for-you items are lagging behind traditional products.

“Overall, for the three months May through July, our market business is up 36 percent, which is good,” Greble said. “Generally speaking, everything is on the rise. Our largest gain was in our cookie/cracker category with a 53 percent sales increase, and a 1.32 percent gain on the share of snacks. While overall sales have grown, items we consider to be better-for-you have not kept pace, only growing 26 percent.”

Greble said that traditional products — known brands in chips, snack mix and candy — are consistently their strongest sellers.

“The usual suspects are our top performing SKU’s,” he explained. “Tradition is king.”

That being said, Greble notes that One Source’s clients often ask for healthier options, so they’re determined to deliver the products that their customers want.

“We constantly receive requests for better-for-you options,” he said. “Each request is individualized, and perception is king in these instances.”

New flavors offer excitement around traditional brands

Malcolm McAlpine, business manager, branded snacks and confections at Mondelēz International, said that operators can help inform what products would do well in vending, micro markets and pantry service by relaying their clients’ requests for specific items.

“Operators know their consumers and frequently request new flavors and variations of best-selling products that will appeal to them in their respective markets,” McAlpine said. “By switching new products into their machines or onto shelves, operators create excitement with their consumers by giving them new options to choose from. When thinking about new flavors to offer operators in these markets, we try to be innovative so we can offer something different than what’s already being sold.”

Suppliers have been quick to respond to the variety that the masses demand, offering new flavors for traditional products along with betterfor-you options that consumers are asking for. Earlier this year, Mondelēz International offered two new flavors — Original and Barbecue — of RITZ Crisp & Thins into the vending, micro market and pantry segments.

“This salty snack has all the taste of a potato chip but with 50 percent less fat, making it a betterfor-you alternative,” explained McAlpine. “Both flavors are offered in a 1.7 ounce bag that works well in both micro markets and vending.”

Recognizing that traditional brands are still selling well in convenience services, Mondelēz International also released the NUTTER BUTTER Chocolate Fudge Covered King Size product to the vending and micro market sector, giving consumers a new take on an old favorite.

“[It’s] a perfect sweet snack to introduce in your micro market,” McAlpine said. “It’s the number one peanut butter cookie that people know and love but covered in rich fudge for an extra sweet treat. Since we started offering these new flavors in the micro market and pantry segments, operators have been excited to be able to provide these as an option to their customers.”

Variety is essential for traditional brands and emerging better-for-you products

While having a greater variety of products is increasingly important in keeping clients happy, many consumers will repeatedly opt for their favorite snacks and candy time and time again. McAlpine said that OREO, CHIPS AHOY!, NUTTER BUTTER and SOUR PATCH KIDS lead in their respective categories, and that SWEDISH FISH continues to grow in popularity. Since consumers know and love these brands, they’re willing to try new flavors. 

“The familiarity of these and other Mondelēz International brands among consumers is the key to success of new flavors, as consumers are more willing to try new products from brands they trust,” McAlpine said.

Sahale Snacks aims to capture the rapidly growing away from-home snacking market by providing plant-based snack mixes that consumers can feel good about eating. Sahale currently offers 11 core flavors and four new varieties of snack mixes, providing options for operators hoping to capitalize on the demand for better-for-you snacks. 

“Knowing trail mix is the fastest growing single-serve snack in retail, Sahale Snacks offer a unique solution for operators to capture some of that demand,” Tim Wayne at The JM Smucker Company said. “Coconut is on trend especially with high millennial appeal. Our new Coconut Snack Mixes are great for consumers who are looking for enlightened indulgence. They still offer a sweet treat, but with quality ingredients people can feel good about eating. Available in Pineapple Rum Cashew and Cherry Cocoa Almond varieties, these new Coconut Snack Mixes are light, crunchy and downright delicious!”

Wayne explained that Sahale Snacks has a “snack better” promise, meaning the products contain no artificial flavors or preservatives, and are verified by The Non-GMO Project. All ingredients are recognizable, speaking to consumers who want to indulge in a delightful flavor experience without scouring ingredient labels or worrying about what’s hidden inside. Sahale will soon offer two new savory snack mix blends featuring a variety of legumes and nuts blended together with flavorful and aromatic spices.

“As consumers continue to seek functional flavor, Sahale Bean & Nut Mixes will be a satisfying and delicious way to keep their energy levels up all day long,” Wayne said. “These mixes will be available soon in classic Sea Salt or savory Asian Sesame Edamame flavors to appeal to a broad range of snackers.”

A snacking story to be told

The convenience services industry still combats the misperception that the majority of the food items offered fall into the “junk food” category, but this perception is starting to change as operators increasingly diversify the range of products they offer clients, including traditional favorites and new better-for-you items.

“I think we — as an industry — need to tell our story better,” Greble explained. “We are a destination for food, snacks, and beverages that appeals to the masses. We want to balance each request for healthier options without alienating our base. We are attempting to change our perception through digital signage, and balancing our menu with fresh produce, upscale beverages like kombucha, and organic snack options despite the sales data that suggests we should try to sell more soda and chips.” 


FDA photo by Michael J. Ermarth
The main entrance of FDA Building 1, which houses the Commissioner’s and Senior Staff’s offices. The FDA campus is located at 10903 New Hampshire Ave., Silver Spring, MD 20993.

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