Canadian Vending

Features Equipment Technology
Trends Suggest Time To Revamp

Eye appeal is buy appeal


April 29, 2008
By Toby Davidson

Topics

Canadian Vending Magazine was first introduced to Toby Davidson at the 2006 Guelph Food Technology Centre’s “Global Food Trends” seminar in February. Davidson is the mastermind behind Concept to Shelf, a consulting agency specializing in trend analysis and ideation, packaging design, product development, quality assurance and branding for the food industry.

Eye appeal is buy appeal

Canadian Vending Magazine was first introduced to Toby Davidson at the 2006 Guelph Food Technology Centre’s “Global Food Trends” seminar in February. Davidson is the mastermind behind Concept to Shelf, a consulting agency specializing in trend analysis and ideation, packaging design, product development, quality assurance and branding for the food industry.

Given her extensive experience in consulting food manufacturers and retailers, Canadian Vending asked Davidson to provide some of her thoughts on the future of the Canadian vending industry, and from a consumer’s perspective, what could our industry be doing differently to achieve maximum success?

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Given the global trend towards the hyper-tasking consumer (of all ages) selecting on-the-go quick meal-solutions and the movement towards grazing vs. snacking, through it all, consumers are trying to make healthier choices. These trends give the vending machine operator a huge opportunity to revamp their overall image, and generally rethink the product mix being offered.

Taking into consideration the package design and type of packaging the product is housed in could increase sales opportunities for vendors looking to discontinue the loss of market share to progressive convenience store formats, which are gaining momentum in terms of breadth of  foodservice.

Baby Boomers
Yes, traditional chocolate bars, salty snacks and carbonated beverages are not going away. But, if you want to grow the channel by attracting new consumers or switch to those caring about their waistline and general health (namely the boomer market), be sure of the following:

1. Machines are available in locations that boomers frequent – the gym, high-end malls and places where they may take their grandkids (the hockey arena and the community centre).

2. The product offering will attract both those who really don’t care about sugar, fat and carbohydrates and the boomer market that wants a healthy snack or a quick meal solution.

Premium-oriented products that may be offered within these vending machines might include: all natural, higher quality confectionary (higher per cent of cocoa, functional elements), low-sodium snacks, organic or baked potato chips (as opposed to fried), low-fat tasty salsa sachets with organic blue corn chips, single-serve crisp fresh veggies with accompanying reduced fat dips, wellness/functional/hydrating naturally flavoured fruit beverages, energy drinks, and “super-fresh” sandwiches on healthier oriented breads with gourmet honey mustard and a jumbo low-sodium dill pickle on the side.

And of course, the classics, tuna, egg and chicken salad sandwiches can be made with less mayonnaise or reduced-fat mayo and again, made on a smarter carb carrier that functions well under vending machine conditions.

Take a walk through some of the leading retail stores that have developed dynamic and great-tasting portable foods (specifically examine the new PC Blue Menu line of products). Explore the array of portable, single-serve, and health-oriented products they are offering their guests.

Make It Pop
In terms of enhancing the vending machine environment or experience, consider packaging and the actual vending machine design as a key way to enhance or differentiate within the channel. When a product is behind glass, in those sterile, antiquated looking generic machines sitting in dark hallways or poorly lit rooms, imagine how enhanced lighting methods and great graphics (both outside and actual food packaging) could “pop”?

Consider how you may be able to allow the consumer to review the now mandatory nutritional facts panels on the food products before they make a purchase decision. Are you able to integrate a “Product Information Guide” that allows the consumer to read the ingredient lists and nutritional facts panel before they make a purchasing decision?

Hot Topics
Specifically within hot food offerings (vending machine locations with access to microwaves), product and packaging innovation offerings continue to grow dramatically. (Think steam ventilation type packaging.)

Think of “the classics” and multi-cultural offerings that adequately serve the Canadian market demographics and its mix of diverse backgrounds. Consider authentic Indian, Italian and Asian offerings. They are all available.

For Manufacturers
Units that look like a welcoming café, a cool sandwich shop or a funky pizza parlour will keep pace with what’s going on in other emerging food-on-the-go channels. (Namely convenience stores, fast food outlets, and HMR counters in traditional grocery stores.)

Consider what the next generation of vending machine users look like and design accordingly. Get them involved. Do some market research – ask them what they are looking for and adjust accordingly.

Continue to place units strategically to the demographic. Understand the niche demographics and their needs. Let the consumer become more dependent on the vending machine channel as a way to fill their on-the-go meal or snack time solution.  Don’t let the vending machines become a thing of the past.  o


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