Dare To Be Different
By Michelle Brisebois
Quirky trends for 2010
By Michelle Brisebois
If your vending machines sell the popular brands – it can be a
double-edged sword. Sure, consumers love the big brands, but these
brands are so widely available that your machines are competing with
dozens of other channels nearby that also carry the high-profile
If your vending machines sell the popular brands – it can be a double-edged sword. Sure, consumers love the big brands, but these brands are so widely available that your machines are competing with dozens of other channels nearby that also carry the high-profile products.
When competition is fierce, it’s always good to become a destination. You do this by having a point of difference, something consumers desire that’s not easily obtained elsewhere. These differences can be in the products you offer or in the way you offer them. Cool hunters have been tracking some emerging trends that may just give your machines a way to break out and become destinations. They’re a bit offbeat but that’s what makes them cool.
Whimsical baked goods
The New York Times reports that Whoopie Pies are making a comeback as the next, trendy snack. The Williams-Sonoma catalogue describes them as “pure edible nostalgia.” The filling is generally one of two types: a thick, sweet frosting made from shortening combined with confectioners’ sugar, or, more conveniently, a dollop of Marshmallow fluff. Filling flavours include rum, peppermint, Cointreau, raspberry and espresso – echoing the “familiar with a twist” theme seen with the cupcake trend. Cupcakes continue to be hot, fuelled by a mention several years ago on the TV show Sex and the City.
The return of the lunch truck
It’s pop-up retail at its best – the almost-forgotten lunch truck. Mintel in the U.S. reports that mobile food service is a trend worth watching. Branded restaurant chains will be getting into the act, leveraging strong brand recognition. They will stop waiting for the people to come to the food. Instead, the food will go to the people. If you have vending machines that dispense centre of the plate items, keep an eye out for this (re)emerging channel. You may want to do an end run by offering loyalty programs or innovative offerings.
Breakfast all day
Technomic reports that the food industry should “look for breakfast to be available all day at both full-service and limited-service eateries. As fast-food restaurants expand and upgrade their menus of budget-priced breakfast sandwiches and wraps, more full-service operators will be offering hearty brunch buffets well into the afternoon on weekends.”
When grandma cautioned: “Don’t put that in your mouth. You don’t know where it’s been.” – we had no idea that she was the forebear of cool hunting. “Terroir” is the term used in the wine industry to explain how the chemical makeup of the land that produces the grapes imbues the wine with different characteristics. It’s why a Niagara Pinot Noir tastes completely different from an Okanagan vintage of the same grape.
Consumers want to know if it’s Belgian versus Swiss chocolate. Cheese made in Quebec, P.E.I. potatoes, local produce versus imported – they suddenly want to know where it came from because people want to feel good about supporting the local economy and eating a quality food item. Celebrate these ingredients whenever possible.
Hold the salt
World Action on Salt and Health examined consumer food products all over the world and discovered that, in every product studied, the amount of salt differs from country to country even for the same products. For many foods, sodium levels are highest in Canada and lowest in Britain. Statistics Canada reports that, on average, a Canadian consumes nearly 3,100 milligrams of sodium a day. This level is more than double the daily recommended amount for adults and considered quite in excess of acceptable.
It’s not just about what Canadians are adding to their food as seasoning. The studies indicate that almost 80 per cent of the sodium intake of Canadians is ingested passively from packaged or processed food. As the media shines the light on sodium intake – look for consumers to demand products that “hold the salt.”
Canadian Retailer magazine cites convenience as a big trend for 2010. Many retailers such as Shoppers Drug Mart and Canadian Tire now sell food alongside their core offering since it’s something everybody wants and needs. As consumers become more accustomed to picking up bread along with their motor oil, it might make sense for vending machines to offer a broader portfolio of items within one machine. Make sure your machines have as varied a mix as possible to maximize the upsell.
Business Week’s October 2009 Retail issue cites smartphones as a huge opportunity for retailers. ABI Research projects m-commerce (mobile commerce) sales in North America at $544 million for 2009. Many smartphones have an embedded GPS unit that makes finding the closest vending machine an easy thing to do – provided there’s an application that facilitates it. Talk with your suppliers about smartphone applications that may already be in development to which you could attach your machine locations. Some of these big brands have bench strength and deep pockets – chances are there are plans afoot that could help your business.
The University of Waterloo reports that 52 per cent of Canadians want communications with retailers via electronic form. Forty-eight per cent desire a real clerk.
These statistics bode well for the vending industry. Consumers are ready – we just have to give them a reason to push our buttons.