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

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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.

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If You Give a Mouse a Cookie….Trip through a Vending Machine

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It’s National Cookie Day and that means it’s the perfect excuse to visit Laura Numeroff’s classic, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. Take a trip through the vending machine to see all the other things a mouse will need after his cookie!

As you know, if you give a mouse a cookie, he’ll ask you for some milk and then a straw. While in this case, the mouse will ask you to go to the Keurig coffee vending machine to grab a hot chocolate k-cup to wash down the cookie crumbs then he’ll need a napkin to wipe away all the crumbs. Then he’ll need to get some gum from the vending machine. After chewing the gum for a bit, he’ll realize that he’s hungry and he’ll need a snack. He’ll ask for some potato chips but after he opens the bag, he’ll ask you for some chocolate since he loves the sweet and salty combination. After the snack, he’ll get very full so he’ll probably ask for a blanket to rest, but before he can go to sleep, he’ll need a cold bottle of water.

When the mouse wakes up, he’ll realize that he’s full from all the food so he’ll probably ask you to take him on a walk. After the walk, he will be all sweaty, so he will ask you for a bath, but he’ll need some soap. He’ll ask for extra bubbles but make a mess so he’ll ask for a towel to clean it up. He will stand back and realize that the floor needs to be sweeped so he’ll as for a broom. Then he’ll clean the whole house, but when he gets to the kitchen he bumps into the jar of cookies. The cookies come crashing down. He’ll have to eat the cookies quick so they don’t go to waster. And chances are if you give him another cookie, he’ll ask to go back to the vending machine for another hot chocolate and another cookie to go with it!

Enjoy National Cookie Day for yourself and see where your adventure takes you! What type of cookie will you have to celebrate National Cookie Day?

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:

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  • 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.
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  • 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!

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  • 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.
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  • 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.
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  • Dark Chocolate – Dark chocolate is full of antioxidants, natural sugars, and natural fats from the cacao bean.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.
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  • 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.

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  • 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)!

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  • 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!

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  • 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!

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  • 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.

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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!

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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!

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What is your favorite snack for your children?

Snacks are Becoming the New Breakfast

What do you typically eat for breakfast? Today, almost 25% of people are snacking instead of eating a full meal for breakfast. This trend is especially popular for younger adults and those with children in the household. Consumers embrace snacking and people are now eating smaller, more frequent meals. This has changed people’s relationship with traditional breakfast foods.

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Today, people are turning to quick, grab-and-go breakfast snacks throughout the day. With little time in your day, it can be difficult to spend extra time in the morning to cook a full breakfast so breakfast snacks all you to get a quick meal to start the day.

Some popular breakfasts snacks include:

  • Yogurt and granola
  • Smoothies
  • Granola/protein bars
  • Muffins
  • Fruit
  • Leftovers from previous meals

Breakfast is no longer limited to a single meal in the morning, but people are eating breakfast foods throughout the day. Many restaurants such as McDonald’s and Taco Bell are fueling this trend by providing breakfast all day long. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so be sure to start your day off with a breakfast that will give you energy for the day!

What are some of your favorite breakfast foods?

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Micro Market Innovation

Self-service micro markets are a fresh idea for a new break-time experience by combining fresh, nutritious meals and snacks with ease of use and technological innovation. Micro markets are more limited and focused on a select group of consumers, offering a full range of healthier products. These markets have a wide variety of tasty and healthy options with the convenience of having a fresh marketplace within your company campus. With soups, salads, fruits, vegetables, frozen foods, cold drinks, and other snack foods, there is enough diversity to please everyone.

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Micro markets are self-checkout convenience installations that offer 24/7 retail-style merchandising with state-of-the-art unattended self-checkout kiosk technology. With the choice of a variety of fresh foods, snacks, and beverages, you can have open product access and a variety of healthy and fresh food selections. Not only do employees have access to hundreds of healthy products, but they can also take time to evaluate product labels and nutritional information before making a purchase. Micro markets are an innovating and exciting way to make break-time a little more fun and much healthier, which increase employee morale and productivity.

Employees who stay on campus can get back to work quicker and are more likely to be satisfied with the healthy options. Associates can accumulate points with the purchase of healthy items to encourage healthier choices. Micro markets have a simple and secure checkout process: employees checkout using their own credit/debit cards, key tag, or smartphones. Each company has unique needs so each company’s micro market is designed slightly different.

Some key benefits of having a micro market in your company include:

  • Convenience: Company Kitchen is open 24/7
  • Cashless kiosk: Use a market card, credit or debit card to pay
  • Fresh-made foods and a great selection
  • Nutritional tracking allows employees to create a personal, online profiles to track nutritional data

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Snacking around the World

The variety of snacks you can get just by walking into your average grocery store can be pretty mesmerizing. You can get chips that come in a plethora of flavors; you can get pretzels (sweet or salty); you can get candy or chocolate bars; you can get cookies or crackers; you can get nuts or seeds, and the list really goes on endlessly. In the US, chips and cookies are the staple snack, but around the world, palates and flavors differ entirely.

We brought in some unusual snacks from around the world to the office and had everyone give them a try. Then we had everyone guess which country the snacks originated from. It was a blast seeing everyone’s amusement with the kinds of snacks we laid out. Here’s what went down.

We managed to get some of the snacks from local ethnic markets in Des Moines, but had to order the rest online because they were too difficult to find.

Boxes from Amazon

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First up, they tried some Dela Rosa, a sweet marzipan peanut candy from Mexico. They came individually packed in little round pieces, and it was a powdery consistency that pretty much broke once we opened the little wrappers. No one could guess where this was from, but we definitely weren’t expecting that level of sweetness from it.

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Next, everyone had a go at TimTams. I think these were the safest looking food on the table, and everyone just loved them. We even had people asking for seconds. This Australian chocolate cookie snack is a definite must-try 🙂 They are available on Amazon in the US!

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These little burgers are the cutest thing you’ll ever eat, AND they are delicious! At first, they seemed a little curious, but when everyone had one, we were very much immediate fans of Every Burger! This Japanese snack is actually a rich chocolate sandwiched between mini wheat cookies. Who else would come up with little chocolate burger snacks, other than the Japanese 🙂

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Dried cuttlefish is actually a pretty typical Asian snack, especially in China. It is very much just plain dried cuttlefish, and it has quite a sweet tang. Unfortunately. it also packs in a heavy fishy smell that had everyone on their feet before trying a tiny piece of this. As it turns out, most Americans probably will have a hard time overcoming that smell long enough to enjoy this interesting snack, although there were one or two people at the office who actually enjoyed this one!

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These squid-flavored peanuts are common on Korea (although this packet is from Japan). They seemed a little peculiar at first, but everyone seemed to enjoy them. In fact, they were really addictive and the bag was gone before we could get proper pictures of the little squid-peanut balls 🙂

Roasted Squid-flavored Peanuts

Next on the menu, Muruku from India! This was the easiest to guess which country it came from, and everyone got it right. It has a distinct spice and curry taste and is a common savory, crunchy snack in India. Definitely a simple, but flavor-packed snack to try if you ever get the chance !

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This last snack is a fun walk down memory lane for 90s kids in Malaysia and Singapore. No one got this guess right, but they were very much amused with its ramen-ness.

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That was a real fun activity to have in the office. What other interesting snacks have you tried from around the world? Let us know, and maybe we’ll try them in the next round 🙂

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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 😛

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!

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:

Healthier Picks at a Vending Machine

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

Unhealthier Picks at a vending machine

Worst Snacks from the Vending Machine:

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

Snacks from Home

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