Vending Outside the Box

MicroMarkets

The world of vending is expanding beyond the typical machines found in your office break room. Self-checkout (also known as micro markets) is new on the scene and a great way for employers to provide vending solutions in a non-traditional format. Most often found at larger workplace locations, self-checkout markets are growing rapidly with no plans to stop.

The concept of a self-checkout market resembles a small convenience store without a cashier and allows patrons to select snacks, meals and drinks from a variety of racks and coolers. The patrons would then bring purchases to a self-checkout touch screen kiosk. This allows the consumer the convenience to pick up items and check nutrition labels before purchasing them.

These markets also allow for more customization when it comes to products and allow for promotional integration with employer health and wellness programs. In vending, fresh food selections are limited, but fresh is what sells in self-checkout markets. More than 25 percent of micro market sales are from fresh food, which allows for more healthy products to be added. Self-checkout customers were asked what they like most about the new market and a majority, 79.8 percent, like the variety.

It’s like having a convenience store in your own facility; each layout is customizable to the needs of your facility and food preferences. If your company is interested in expanding your vending options, let us know by giving us a call at (888)-795-8363.

Millennials Replacing Meals with Snacks

Snacks as meals - yogurt shutterstock_632878874

Bakery and Snacks reported that a recent study conducted by Surveygoo found that 92% of American Millennials ages 18-35 eat wholesome, healthy snacks in place of a traditional meal at least one time a week. Approximately 50% of Millennials eat a snack in place of a meal four times a week and 26% do so about seven times a week. Millennials are turning toward snacks instead of meals because they are too either too busy for a sit-down meal or do not want to take the time to cook a full meal.

Many companies are targeting Millennials by offering health-conscious products in their portfolio. For example, PepsiCo has reduced sugar in some of its beverages. Millennials prefer whole grain ingredients such as whole grains, fruit, and nuts because they prefer clean, organic, and less-processed products. The overall definition of a snack is continuing to change from a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts to a wide array of different foods.

The food industry is driven by convenience. Manufacturers and restaurants are introducing items that satisfy a rapidly growing appetite for smaller meals that can be consumed on the run, even if this may not be the healthiest way to eat. Americans are eating fewer sweet snacks, but they are consuming healthier snacks such as yogurt, cottage cheese, nuts, and protein shakes.

While chips and chocolate are still the most popular snacks, cheese has become the third most popular snack. According to Cheese Market News, 33% of people say they are eating healthier snacks this year compared to last and 60% of people want more healthy snacking options. This is especially true for Millennials who eat twice as many snacks as older generations, but Millennials focus on eating healthier snacks.

Snacks provide a great opportunity for food companies because they are often more expensive than traditional meal components. Snacks represent a large amount of shelf space in grocery stores. For example, for the cereal powerhouse, Kellogg, snacks have increased from 20% in 2000 to 50% today. Kellogg and other snack companies are developing more single-serve packages to offer more grab-and-go snack options for consumers.

According to vice president and general manager of Hillshire Snacking, Jeff Caswell, “Consumers are shifting away from this traditional snacking definition to include a more expanded variety of options to satisfy a more sophisticated food palate.” Millennials have a passion for food and love new flavors and unique food combinations. Millennials are pushing the snacking industry to create more fresh, healthy, and protein-packed snacks.

Snacks as meals shutterstock_632300270

 

Cheese Consumption Continues to Rise in America

Cheese shutterstock_577710550

Milk consumption has been declining in the U.S. during the past few decades, but sales in cheese have been steadily increasing! With more drink options (juice, flavored waters, sodas, sport drinks, etc.), people have been consuming less milk, but cows are producing more milk than ever.

Bloomberg stated that over the past two years, Americans are eating cheese and butter at the highest rate since 2000. This sales surge is helping to make up for the decline in milk consumption. It is not clear what’s driving the increase in cheese consumption, but this one particular food may have something to do with it: pizza! According to CNBC, there are about 70,000 pizzerias in the U.S. contributing to a growing $45 billion industry. Although pizza is a popular meal, the U.S. cheese surplus is not a result of consumer habits.

BloomgergMarkets stated that Americans are eating 35 pounds of cheese each annually, which is twice the amount consumed in 1980. The dairy industry has more than a billion pounds of cheese worth $150 million in freezers because the global market for cheese is saturated. With increased milk production in other countries and a strong U.S. dollar, American dairymen are facing difficulties selling cheese even with higher consumption. 

Cheese is a staple for most households and consumption rates are likely to continue to increase. Be sure to let us know what your favorite kind of cheese is in the comments!

Virtual Reality: Changing the Future of Food and Drinks

Virtual reality glasses shutterstock_575508088

Virtual reality technology is quickly entering homes around the nation and will likely have an impact on the way we eat and drink in the future. A group of 30 people in Los Angeles are working on a project called Project Nourished to bring virtual reality into the world of food and drinks through “3D printed food.” Virtual reality meals involve putting on a headset to experience a gourmet meal.

Along with the headset, there is also an aromatic diffuser and bone conduction transducer. The aromatic diffuser blasts food aromas and the bone conduction transducer wraps around the back of your head to mimic the sounds and vibrations of chewing. Consumers may be in a virtual reality world where they perceive that they are consuming pizza and cake when in reality they are chewing on a piece of spinach.

According to Robert McGorrin, department of Oregon State’s Food Science and Technology department, “flavor is about 80% aroma and 20% taste.” Project Nourished is working on offering customers a state-of-the-art fine dining experience by including a downloadable 360 degree VR video of unique themes such as up in the sky with the stars or on the beach. Restaurants that want to create a complete experience around a meal, not just a plate of food may gravitate toward using virtual reality to incorporate all five senses!

Let us know if you want to try a virtual reality meal! What meal would you want to try with virtual reality glasses?

Virtual Reality - pizza shutterstock_575662021

Protein: The Building Blocks of Life

Protein1 shutterstock_563658346 Protein2 shutterstock_562273204

Proteins are the building blocks of life; every cell of the human body contains protein! The Institute of Medicine recommends that adults get a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight per day. The daily recommended intake of protein for healthy adults is 10-35% of your total calorie intake.

Millions of people around the world do not get enough protein each day. Lack of protein can cause growth failure, loss of muscle mass, decreased immunity, and heart or respiratory system troubles. Your body needs protein in order to repair cells and build new ones!

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, one ounce of most protein-rich foods contain 7 grams of protein. An ounce equals: 1 oz of meat fish or poultry, 1 large egg, ¼ cup tofu, ½ cup cooked beans or lentils, and 1 Tbsp peanut butter.

Fish and meat are known for being high in protein, but here are some great sources of protein if you are looking for some vegetarian options:

  • Quinoa (8 grams of protein per cup)
  • Edamame (9 grams of protein per cup)
  • Tofu (16 grams of protein per cup)
  • Beans (12-15 grams of protein per cup depending on type of bean)
  • Nuts (22-36 grams of protein per cup depending on type of nut)
  • Chickpeas (16 grams of protein per cup)
  • Chia seeds (38 grams of protein per cup)
  • Hemp seeds (11 grams of protein per tablespoon)
  • Raw lentils (47 grams of protein per cup)
  • Sesame seeds (25 grams of protein per cup)

Not all sources of protein are created equal and it is important to make sure that you are getting enough protein to meet your dietary needs. What are some of your favorite sources of protein?

energy1-nuts-shutterstock_286575509

 

Fun Facts for National Popcorn Day

Popcorn2 shutterstock_537020155

January 19 is National Popcorn Day! Celebrate the day with your favorite type of popcorn whether that’s prepared in the microwave, the stovetop, a popcorn popping machine, over the fire, or a ready to eat bag from the store! Popcorn can be a super fun and healthy snack! Here are some fun popcorn facts:

  1. Americans eat around 17 billion quarts of popcorn every year. This amount would fill the Empire State Building 18 times!
  2. By volume, popcorn is America’s favorite snack!
  3. The oldest ears of popcorn ever came from Mexico and over more that 4,000 years old.
  4. Popcorn is the official snack of Illinois and they have celebrated “Popcorn Day” ever since 1958.
  5. Sugar was rationed during WWII so Americans ate three times as much popcorn during this time.
  6. Popcorn had been sold in theaters since 1912. In theaters, for ever dollar spent on popcorn, approximately 90 cents is profit.
  7. Popcorn sales had decreased when TVs started entering American homes because this lead to lower movie ticket sales and popcorn sales at movies.
  8. A single popcorn kernel pops with so much force that it can be propelled up to three feet in the air.
  9. Popcorn can be a very healthy snack:
    1. Popcorn is a whole grain that provides 31 calories per cup. 3 cups of popcorn = 1 full serving of whole grains
    2. High in fiber, low in fat, and contains no salt or sugar
    3. Popcorn contains more antioxidants than fruits and vegetables
  10. Thanks to the invention of microwave popcorn, 70% of popcorn is consumed in homes!

Let us know what type of popcorn you’ll eat to celebrate National Popcorn Day!

Popcorn shutterstock_538930804

Spooky Halloween Drinks

Halloween is always a fun time for children – dressing up, going trick or treating, and eating way too much candy, but who says Halloween is just for kids? With Halloween coming up, it’s a perfect time to make some fun holiday drinks because adults often have just as much fun celebrating Halloween. Whether it’s a Halloween party, going through a haunted house, or spending the evening with your family, the Halloween season can be a blast for the adults too! Halloween is the perfect time to concoct some spooktacular drinks for your guests!

  • Candy Corn Jell-O Shots – Add a Halloween twist to your typical Jell-O shots! The first step will be to make the first and last layer of the candy corn shot. Pour 1 cup of water into a small saucepan and pour two packets of unflavored gelatin into the water. Heat the water and gelatin over low heat and stir occasionally until the gelatin has dissolved. Remove from the heat and add ½ can of condensed milk to the mixture and stir then add ⅔ cups vanilla vodka. Cover and set aside half of mixture. Distribute the first half of the mixture into 20 shots, filling each no more than ⅓ full. Then put these in the refrigerator for half an hour or until firm.
  • After the first layer is firm, pour another 1 cup of water into your saucepan and add 1 packet of gelatin to the middle layer. Heat the water until gelatin dissolves and remove from heat then stir in the box of orange Jell-O until it is dissolved. Then you can add ⅓ cup of vanilla vodka and evenly distribute the orange layer on top of the white layer and refrigerate until chilled. After this layer is firm, grab the second half of the milk mixture and add a few drops of yellow food coloring. Distribute your yellow layer on top of the orange and put it back into the fridge until set. After all the layers are firm, you can serve these fun shots to your guests!
Ingredients
1 small box orange-flavored Jell-O (3oz)
3 envelopes Knox unflavored gelatin
7oz. sweetened condensed milk (1/2 of a 14 oz. can)
2 cups water
1 cup vanilla or cake vodka (add more if you like strong shots)
Yellow food coloring
20 shot glasses/cups
  • Caramel Apple Sangria – This fruity drink tastes so much like a caramel apple, but with a fun twist! Mix caramel vodka, sweet apple cider, and crisp pinot grigio. Serve it chilled over ice then add chopped apple to each individual glass.
Ingredients
1 750 ml bottle of pinot grigio (or your favorite mild white wine)
1 cup caramel flavored vodka
6 cups apple cider
2 medium apples, cored and chopped
  • Rumchata Pumpkin Pie Pudding Shots – Whisk together the milk, Rumchata, and instant pudding mix in a bowl until combined. Then add in cool whip slowly with a whisk. Scoop the pudding mixture into shot glasses or cups with lids. Freeze for two hours then they’re ready to enjoy!
Ingredients
1 small Pkg. pumpkin spice instant pudding
3/4 Cup Milk
3/4 Cup Rumchata
8oz tub Cool Whip
  • Frog in the blender – Add a twist to your typical vodka cranberry by adding a lime and giving it a whirl in the blender!
Ingredients
I cup of ice
2 oz. vodka
4 oz. cranberry juice
2 lime wheels
  • Black Devil Martini – Stir and strain the dark rum and dry vermouth into chilled martini glass rimmed with orange sugar, then garnish with black olives.
Ingredients
2 oz. dark rum
1/2 oz. dry vermouth
black olive
orange sugar

These are just a few of the fun Halloween alcoholic drinks. What’s your favorite spooky drink to serve during the Halloween season?

halloween-drinks-shutterstock_158253497

Top High Energy Foods to Beat the Midday Snooze

All foods give you energy, but not all foods give you the same energy to keep you going throughout the day. Many people turn to coffee or sugary treats when their energy, but these effects are often short term and lead to a crash later. Snacks that provide the most energy are rich in protein, fiber, and complex carbohydrates.

Here are some healthy foods that keep you energized much longer:

energy1-nuts-shutterstock_286575509

  • Nuts – Almonds, walnuts, cashews, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, and pistachios are just a few of the protein-filled nuts that give you an energy boost. Nuts are a great source of magnesium to convert sugar into energy fuel. Pistachios provide protein, fiber, and heart healthy monounsaturated fats to give you energy all day long. Since you have to remove the shell of pistachios, it is less likely that you will overeat.
energy2-peanut-butter-shutterstock_316086323
  • Peanut Butter – Peanut butter contains healthy fats, protein, and fiber to keep hunger away. Just be sure to avoid peanut butters with added sugar or hydrogenated oils!

energy3-leafy-greens-shutterstock_390988804

  • Leafy greens – Leafy greens such as spinach, romaine lettuce, and arugula are high in folate, which is a mood-enhancing nutrient. These vegetables all contain vitamin C to help you stay strong and healthy. You can add leafy greens into pastas, salads, soups, and sandwiches to boost your energy through the day.
energy-4-bananas-shutterstock_323430905
  • Fruit – Fruit contains vitamin C, fiber, and natural sugar to boost your energy level. Frozen fruit or fresh fruit smoothies can be an easy way to add more fruit into your day. Bananas decelerate digestion and they are full of fiber, vitamin B, and potassium, so this fruit is a great snack to keep you going.
energy-5-dark-chocolate-shutterstock_237622120
  • Dark Chocolate – Dark chocolate is full of antioxidants, natural sugars, and natural fats from the cacao bean.

energy-6-whole-grains-shutterstock_255417400

  • Whole grains – Complex carbohydrates such as the whole grains in oatmeal, whole-wheat bread, and brown rice maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Your body primarily uses carbohydrates to fuel itself, so whole grains area critical aspect of creating natural energy throughout the day. Whole grains help you feel satisfied so you are less likely to turn toward sweets and empty carbohydrates.

energy-7-hummus-shutterstock_143974642

  • Hummus – This fiber and protein filled snack is a perfect snack with veggies or pita chips to stabilize blood sugar, reduce hunger, and increase energy.
energy-8-greek-yogurt-shutterstock_135998417
  • Greek yogurt – Greek yogurt has almost twice the amount of protein as regular yogurt. If you add nuts and fruit, it’s a prefect mix to give you more energy.

energy-9-water-shutterstock_148216211

  • Water – Water may not be a food, but it’s important to drink enough water in order to stay energized. When you are dehydrated, you often feel tired and sluggish. Water regulates digestive and bodily functions, so it’s crucial to stay hydrated!

These are just a few of the many foods that you can eat to get more energy. It’s important to find snacks that have protein, fiber, and complex carbohydrates in order to stay energized throughout the day!

Let us know your favorite high-energy snack in the comments!

Exciting and Healthy School Snacks

Now that school is back in full swing, it’s important that kids have the right snacks to fuel their bodies! It can be tricky to find healthy snacks that your children actually like, but with a little preparation, you can win them over with healthy snacks.

  • Ants on a log – This is a fun snack that kids can make that only involves three ingredients – celery, peanut butter, and raisins. It’s the prefect mix of veggies (celery), fruit (raisins), and protein (peanut butter)!

schoolsnack-ants-on-log-shutterstock_111797735

  • Smoothies – Smoothies can be a healthy and quick snack for children on the go. Whether it’s a strawberry, blueberry, or mango smoothie, you are sure to find one that your children love. This can be a simple way to get your child to eat more protein, fruit, and potentially veggies!

smoothies-shutterstock_174376499

  • Pickles in a blanket – Spread cream cheese on a piece of turkey or ham then place a pickle in the middle and roll it up to make a simple snack!

Pickles shutterstock_267122087

  • Apple moons or banana boats – Take sliced bananas or apples and put peanut butter and granola on the sides to create an apple moon or banana boat.

energy-4-bananas-shutterstock_323430905

It’s important for snacks to include protein to helpkids feel fuller longer and have enough energy for all of their activities. Protein is vital for growing bodies and it helps build and repair lean muscles. Protein works with other nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D to build strong bones. A simple way to add some protein into your children’s snacls is with a glass of milk which is full of essential amino acids!

milk-shutterstock_103807529

You can’t forget about the fruits and veggies! Fruits and veggies are low in fat, calories, sodium and cholesterol, and have a wide variety of health benefits. Although it can be tricky to get little ones to eat veggies, there are a few tricks to add more veggies into your children’s diet. You can hide the veggies in your cooking such as mixing cooked veggies into eggs, pasta, quesadillas, or smoothies. Let your kids help you with the shopping and try to see how many different color fruits and veggies you can incoroporate into a meal or snack. You can also introduce new veggies with a dip or hummus. Find a way to make fruits and veggies more exciting and you might be surprised if your kid finds a new favorite food!

energy-7-hummus-shutterstock_143974642Fruit shutterstock_372769957

What is your favorite snack for your children?

Looking Back on State Fair Food

As many state fairs have recently come to a close, it’s fun to look back at some of the unique fair foods across the nation. State fairs are known for their unique food offerings especially deep fried food and food on a stick.

fair-spam-shutterstock_212746621 fair-spam-sushi-shutterstock_200287724

Here are a few unique items at state fairs around the nation:

  • Spam sushi (Minnesota) – Grilled Spam, sushi rice, fried egg and wasabi are rolled in dried seaweed to create grilled Spam. The Spam Museum is in Austin, Minnesota, so this fair food ties well into the state’s Spam pride.
  • Spam curds (Minnesota) – The Minnesota State Fair has another unique Spam treat with Spam curds which are cubes of cheese-flavored Spam battered, deep-fried, and smothered in ranch dressing.
  • Fried Jelly beans (Massachusetts) – Jelly Belly beans are rolled in funnel cake batter and fried to create a unique sweet treat.
  • Alligator on a stick (Illinois) – This is a popular choice at the Illinois state fair. Alligator on a stick tastes like pork and has a similar texture to veal.
  • Deep Fried Scorpion (Arizona) – Scorpions are battered, fried, and served plain or dipped in chocolate.
  • Sautéed mealworms (Arizona) – Mealworms are cooked in olive oil, sautéed in garlic, and smothered in enough barbecue sauce to give a similar consistency to fried onions.
  • Fried Moon Pie (Texas) – This sugary treat includes a marshmallow and graham-cracker sandwich confection that’s deep-fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar.
  • Krispy Kreme Burgers (North Carolina) – A beef patty is sandwiched between two Krispy Kreme donuts with optional bacon and cheese to create a sweet and salty meal.
  • Hot Beef Sundae (Indiana) – A new type of sundae includes layered mashed potatoes, marinated beef, gravy, cheese, corn “sprinkles” and a cherry (tomato).
  • Deep fried butter (Texas) – You can even get some deep fried butter at the Texas state fair. Butter is battered and flash friend to create a warm biscuit with a buttery center.

fair-food-shutterstock_147414782 fair-cheese-curd-shutterstock_38677864

These are just a few of the unique food offerings at fairs around the nation this year. You can always find cheese curds, mini donuts, corn dogs, and the typical fair food, but it’s always fun to try something new.

Which fair food is your favorite and which unique fair food did you try this year?