Apple Pay Anyone?

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After the release of the iPhone 6, one of Apple’s most talked-about new features is Apple Pay. There has been a lot of buzz in the market regarding the new application for our phones, and we thought it’d be a worthy topic to discuss.

Did you know though, that these wireless payment systems like Apple Pay and Google Wallet are not the first of their kind? The Nokia Communicator, released in 1996, could be considered one of the first smartphones in the world. The Finns were actually the first people to use these Communicators to wirelessly make payments at vending and parking machines. Basically what they would do was send a text message to a particular machine and the payment would be billed to their service provider later.

Nokia Communicator Series

So what about Apple Pay – how does that work? The setup is fairly simple; you can add credit/debit cards to your Passbook application by keying the details in manually, or by taking a photo of your card itself. Once your card has been verified, Apple Pay is then ready to be used in stores and even for in-app purchases. In participating stores, all you need to do at checkout is select the card you want to use and hold your iPhone over the NFC (near-filed communication) system with your finger (registered with Touch ID) over the home button. Voila! Then when a payment is complete, you will be notified by a beep, vibration and a check mark on your screen. Check out this video from Walgreens to see how it works:

Seems simple doesn’t it? But of course, with everything there are its individual benefits and drawbacks. Let’s talk about a few of them that we’ve been noticing in reviews all across the Internet.

Apple Pay Pros & Cons

Benefits:

  • It’s simple and easy to use. It acts as an all-in-one application where all your cards are stored and all you need to do is hold your phone out to make payments in stores with NFC systems at their checkout stations
  • You can even make app and in-app purchases with it
  • Apple Pay uses “tokenization” in storing card information, which is a security feature that allows each credit card’s number to be substituted with a different ID number for every transaction. This ID is the information that merchant’s receive on their point-of-sale systems when customers make payments.
  • To make payments using Apple pay, you require Touch ID (fingerprint verification)

Potential Drawbacks:

  • Lack of participation of merchants. Sure there are a ton of merchants that already accept Apply Pay, but there are still a ton more that need to adopt to idea
  • Only certain credit cards work with Apple Pay, and you might need the latest Apple devices for it to actually work
  • The ‘Find My iPhone’ feature can be used to quickly suspend payments from your phone, but in order for that to work, the phone must be receiving cellular or Wi-Fi signals, which means if phone is switched off, you won’t be able to do it
  • It is definitely convenient, but it can also be a security drawback of how simple it is to take a photo of your credit card to add it to your Passbook

What do you think of Apple Pay? Let us know if you’ve tried it out and how you like it :)

All Hallows’ Eve and Pumpkin Festivities!

Happy Halloween!

What do you get if you divide the circumference of a pumpkin by its diameter?
PUMPKIN PI!

That’s right, it’s that time of the year again where we stock up candy inventories, plan out costumes, show off makeup skills and start to see pumpkin everywhere. And when we say “everywhere”, we really mean everywhere! We all know about the Pumpkin Spice Latte and the Pumpkin Oreos, but there are a couple of other interesting Halloween-themed products out there every year! Let’s take a look at some of them!

Cheetos Bag of Bones

What do you think of this first one? Cheetos Bag of Bones – they’re not exactly pumpkin-flavored, but they are definitely Halloween-themed! We bet they taste just as good as regular Cheetos and are extra fun to assemble!

Trident Pumpkin Spice LayersThe next one is Trident gum, what about these? Not sure what pumpkin gum is going to taste like and we haven’t seen these around, but we’re sure it’s going to be real interesting.

Jet-Puffed Pumpkin Spice Marshmallows

Jet-Puffed Pumpkin Spice Marshmallows! These have been around for a few years now and come out around this season every year. They’re pretty great actually – they make really interesting s’mores if you like pumpkin :)

TruMoo Halloween Milk

Orange Cream-Flavored Milk by TruMoo.This is new to us and is definitely a change from the usual full-cream milk or chocolate/strawberry milk. The color is very much appealing though! This will do great at the side with some pumpkin pie :P

Disney Parks Pumpkin Fritters

Even the Disney Parks are getting into this holiday mood! Check out their menu add-ons and changes to fit in with this pumpkin-filled season here! These pumpkin fritters look amazing!

Ever wondered how pumpkins became associated with Halloween? It was brought to the US by the Irish; who had been carving “Jack-o’-Lanterns” for centuries. They say that the practice actually originated from an Irish myth about a man named “Stingy Jack”. If you’d like you learn more about Stingy Jack, click here. Don’t forget to share with us what other crazy Halloween snacks you’ve come across!

Have a Happy Halloween everyone!

Starbucks on a Truck?

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Food trucks are definitely one of those little things in life that anyone would look forward to. They’re great because they’re fun, affordable, local (usually) and, they’re delicious (most of the time). Believe it or not, recently, one of the largest brands in the world kick started their venture into the food truck arena.

Starbucks Food Truck

This August, Starbucks announced its plans for their mobile Starbucks stores to hit 3 colleges in the US. These lucky 3 campuses are Arizona State University, James Madison University and Coastal Carolina University. Starbucks and their longtime partner – Aramark, are running the Food Truck project together. Cathy Schlosberg, Vice President of Marketing for Aramark Education said “We believe the Starbucks mobile truck is a perfect opportunity to increase the convenience of our offerings and help meet our student body wherever they are in their busy days.“

Starbucks Food Truck

Starbucks Food Truck

We think this is a great opportunity for Starbucks to be exploring as they continue to grow in the ever-so competitive food and beverage markets now. Rumor has it that these are only pilots, and if the project is a success, we’ll soon be seeing more of these Starbucks Food Trucks around more campuses.

Making Better Choices at the Vending Machine

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From candy bars to fresh apple slices, the options we get at vending machines today are as diversified as ever before. With the increasing trends in health and wellness among individuals nowadays, vendors are beginning to place healthier snack options in their machines. An article in the Des Moines Register the other day caught our eye. It was an interview with Janette Batts, a registered dietitian and license dietitian nutritionist with UnityPoint Health – Des Moines as she shared her tips on how to make healthier choices at a vending machine. We absolutely loved her notes and what she had to say about a lot of our favorite snacks, so we decided to put together a short list of tips to making these healthier choices.

Here are a few tips:

  1. Look out for snacks that have already been labelled as the “Healthier Choice”
  2. Make use of vending machines that provide you with nutritional information of the snacks they carry
  3. Stay away from foods with high trans-fats, MSG and added sugar
  4. Learn the names for different forms of sugar such as fructose, molasses, malt, sucrose
  5. Ingredients that you can’t pronounce can usually be avoided
  6. Use a Food App to get educated on the foods you consume – like MyFitnessPal
  7. Candy bars are great but everything needs to be done in moderation
  8. If you like snacking frequently, then plan for lighter meals and then have wholesome snacks in between

Here are also Janette’s list of Best & Worse snacks from Vending Machines and some other ideas for snacks to pack from home:

Healthy Picks

Best Snacks from the Vending Machine:

  • Original Baked SunChips
  • Special K Cracker Chips
  • BelVita Breakfast Biscuits
  • Nabisco Toasted Wheat Thins
  • Water
  • Aquafina FlavorSplash
  • Lipton Diet Green Tea
  • 100% Fruit Juices

Unhealthy Picks

Worst Snacks from the Vending Machine:

  • Frito-Lay Corn Chips
  • Grandma’s cookies
  • Skittles
  • Orange Crush
  • Starbucks Frappaccino
  • Whole Chocolate Milk

Home Snacks

Healthy Snack Alternatives to bring from Home

  • Popcorn
  • String Cheese
  • Hard-cooked Egg
  • Peanut Butter on Whole-grain Crackers
  • Raw/Dark Coca powder-dusted Almonds (1 oz or 24nuts)
  • Milk
  • Nonfat Yogurt
  • Vegetables with Hummus or Greek Yogurt
  • Fruit
  • Peanut Butter on Whole-grain Tortilla

SUGAR RUSH: Candy Bars are the bomb!

The Sweet Tooth in Me

A while ago we came across Mars’ limited edition Milky Way French Vanilla and Caramel and we were just absolutely craving the bar at the sound of it! Later, this limited edition candy bar was introduced into the vending and micro market channels and now, the bar is back! New, interesting flavors of common products are just so intriguing, plus, there have been so many of these kinds of products in the market recently – especially when something new is trending or when seasons/holidays are around the corner. Let’s take a closer look at the Milky Way French Vanilla and Caramel bar with some reviews

Review 1 Review 2

Milky Way also has Caramel Apple Minis during Halloween. What a fun themed candy bar for such a festive season! Has anyone given these a try? We can’t wait to get our hands on these this coming Halloween! Here’s a review of them from FatGuyFoodBlog:

Review 3

Tell us what you think of this yummy candy bar if you’ve tried it!

Sharing is Caring; Share-A-Coke!

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It’s created a lot of hype recently and people all over the US are scouring stores in search of their names on Coke bottles and cans. The Share-A-Coke campaign this Summer 2014 is a big hit and takes product personalization to the next level. Coke has not only replaced their logo with 250 of the most popular names on some of their 20oz bottles, but the Share A Coke Tour with over 500 stops nationally gives people the chance to personalize 2 of coke cans of their own – one for themselves and one for a loved-one or friend. For the tour, Coke has set up a ton of cool vending machines that print custom names on cans instantaneously and dispense them to you! There haven’t been any stops in Iowa but we’ve seen a ton of names in stores here and it’s extremely exciting! We’ve also seen in stores; 12oz coke cans with nicknames such as “BFF”, “Gamer”, “Legend”, “Buddy”, and “Star”, just to name a few.

The campaign has also created a huge amount of buzz on social media for Coke, especially with Instagram and Facebook. As of mid-July, there had already been more than 125,000 posts about the campaign.So all-in-all, we’d say the campaign has already seen success, not only with brand conversion among purchasers but mainly with the online community.

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The Share-A-Coke Tour even came by Iowa State University a short while ago and we made a bunch of cans for ourselves and our friends! Here’s a picture of our cute customized cans:

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Did you find your name? Let us know! Don’t forget to #shareacoke when you share your pictures on Instagram and Facebook

Sustainable Coffee Capsules – What’s Your Take On It?

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Single-serve coffee has become a thing of today. While the markets for freshly brewed coffee are still hot, the single-serve market is definitely heating up. According to MarketWatch; which is published by Dow Jones & Co., single-serve coffee still accounted for less than half the volume of regular coffee sales, but they were forecast to rise by 213% to an estimated $3.1 billion in 2012 from 2011. With the quick adoption of single-serve coffee by consumers, many large brands, and even new brands are joining this coffee trend.

Coffee Single Serve

Here’s an interesting thought though, with the rising concern for environmental sustainability, how in line is the concept of single-serve coffee with these concerns? Many of the disposable capsules or pods are usually made of plastic or another chemically engineered material that isn’t biodegradable. With people drinking so much coffee every day, week or month, this indefinitely accumulates a ton of waste, and not to mention, requires a large amount of resources to keep producing. Beanarella, a Swiss Coffee Company which was founded in 2011 is one of the players in the single-serve coffee market. Beanarella was granted the “Golden Idea Award 2013” for being the first company to create a compostable coffee capsule worldwide. We think this is a huge step in the right direction and hope to see other brands following in their footsteps in the near future.

Sustainability

How about you? Are you a fan of the Keurig Coffee Brewers or any other single-serve coffee products? The coffee industry is now addressing sustainability concerns, but how willing would you be to pay more to use the more sustainable products?

Let us know your take on this!

What’s Your Lay’s Summer Flavor?

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Frito-Lay’s “Do Us a Flavor” contest in the US was a big hit again this summer with over 14 million submissions. Last year’s winning flavor –Cheesy Garlic Bread– was released to stores just a few weeks after the contest, and this year the contest brought about a whole bunch of new and bizarre flavors to the finals! There are a couple of really interesting ones this year so let’s take a look at them and some of the opinions from Huffington Post.

Lays BaconMac

Finalist #1: Lay’s Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese by Matt Allen
Classic American comfort food with a twist of Bacon – how great does that sound?! We think this flavor will do really well on shelves, even though it’s one of the more ‘normal’ flavors that we’ve seen in the contest.

Lays Cappuccino

Finalist #2: Lay’s Cappuccino by Chad Scott
This one is interesting enough! Who would’ve thought of a coffee-flavored potato chip?! Well, Chad did! This flavor probably has the most bizarre take on chips since most people would need to expect it to be more on the sweet end instead of the savory snack that chips are supposed to be.

Lays Mango

Finalist #3: Lay’s Kettle Cooked Mango Salsa by Julia Stanley-Metz
Salsa in my chips? Well why not?! This flavor is pretty ingenious just because it’s a flavor that conforms so well to the idea of chips. Hopefully the Mango gives it the extra kick it needs to take it to the next level.

Lays Wasabi

Finalist #4: Lay’s Wavy Wasabi Ginger by Meneko Spigner McBeth
This flavor is pretty exotic – definitely not your average chip flavor. If this bag of chips somehow reminds us of sushi, lay some on us! We just hope that the taste of wasabi and ginger isn’t too overwhelming and spicy.

All 4 of these flavors will be out on shelves in a few weeks and we’re really excited to give them a try! Each of these flavors has their strengths and everyone is going to have their own preference, so it’s going to be a close call! But that Cappuccino flavor is just so intriguing though, it’s definitely at the top of our list anyway. What about you?

Remember to save your favorite flavor at the Official Lay’s Do Us A Flavor site!

Improving Branding Through Vending Management

If you are looking for a convenient way to brand your company to its many visitors, consider adding a vending machine. With vending management, you can add a machine that will help you with your branding efforts, all without the stress and hassle of managing custom vending machinesthe machines yourself. With a branding vending solution, you will create interest and engagement with your customers while meeting a specific need they have.

With the right vending management company, you can create a custom graphics package that puts your company’s logo or slogan directly on the machine. With this, you will not only be meeting a need, but also putting your brand in front of your customers.

With the right vending management, you can even customize the look of the products inside your vending machine. Then, maintaining, stocking and servicing those machines will also be handled by the vending machine management professionals. Simply sit back and enjoy the benefits of a fully managed vending service, including money in your pocket and increased branding for your company.

When you contact a vending management company, discuss the options for placement of your vending machine. Keep it in a central location so customers have access to it and are visually reminded of your brand. Stock it with items they will need while they are at your facility, and watch while customer satisfaction and brand recognition increases.

Quality Control in Vending

When your items do not vend properly, it can not only cost you repeat business. It can result in costly repairs if customers decide to take matters into their own hands to try angry vending machineto get an item that misvends.

In recent news, a man damaged a vending machine by dropping it from a forklift when it failed to dispense the candy bar he’d purchased. In many other cases, customers have shaken machines, tipped them or made other unsafe attempts to get stuck snacks. To maintain a healthy relationship with your customers, craft a good vending management program that includes the following:

  • Regularly clean machines in your vending network to remove sticky residue that can cause items to get stuck.
  • Only place properly sized items in your vending machines. Trying to fit an oversized snack, for instance, can cause bags to get caught up and not vend properly.
  • Test your machines regularly to make sure snacks are vending correctly. This should be checked every time you visit to restock.

Good maintenance helps you preserve your vending services contracts. This sort of conscientiousness is what distinguishes successful vending machine companies.