“RTD tea and coffee, sports beverages and energy drinks advanced particularly forcefully during 2011, while carbonated soft drinks and fruit beverages stagnated”, says Food and Beverage Vending Trends in the US .
“Energy drinks… grew faster than all other segments with a 14.4% point volume increase in 2011. RTD coffee also charted the second fastest surge at retail, growing by 9.4%.
“[However], carbonated soft drinks, still by far the biggest liquid refreshment beverage category, continued to lose both volume and market share.”
Growth should return in 2014
While foodservice sales rallied after the recession, with spend levels in 2011 above 2007 levels, vending sales dropped 5.6% in 2011 and are estimated to drop 1.8% in 2012, says Packaged Facts.
However, growth should return in 2014 “on the heels of vending machine innovation that promises higher food and beverage quality, increased consumer interaction and increased cashless payment acceptance”, predicts the market researcher.
Cashless payment options, healthier snacks, fresh foods, premium options and better quality coffee
So where will the growth come from?
More cashless payment options; healthier snacks - particularly targeting women; fresh foods; better quality coffee; and more products targeting heavy users such as young people and Hispanics, says Packaged Facts.
“Demographically, the fast-growing Hispanic population ranks among the prime consumers for food and beverage vending. While Hispanic households comprise 12% of US households and only 10% of U.S. household income, they are responsible for 20% of consumer vending machines/mobile vending spend.”
Meanwhile, sales of fresh food are expected to grow (meals, sandwiches, rolls, hot foods, fries, fruits, salads, pizzas, cakes, bakery products and pies) driven by greater demand for freshness, convenience and natural foods, it predicts.
“The vending industry is being joined by a spate of natural foods-focused vending companies. One such company is H.U.M.A.N. Healthy Vending, founded on the mission ‘Easy Nutrition Everywhere’. Another is Vend Natural, which features products including Hippie Chips.
“And Fresh Healthy Vending has introduced the Fresh Healthy Vending Café line, featuring organic coffee drinks side-by-side with healthy snacks.”
More premium options: Pizza, cupcakes…
More premium options are also springing up, such as cupcake vending business Sprinkles Cupcakes, which “demonstrated that self-service food vending could equate with not only high quality and freshness but also brand prestige”, says the report.
It adds: “And if the new Let's Pizza automated pizza machine, introduced by distributor A1 Concepts, can deliver on its promise, vended food may be up for the challenge…
“These factors, currently lacking in food vending, can help propel the category forward to legitimately compete with competing foodservice alternatives.”
And while healthier options are still somewhat lacking in many vending machines, with “arguably no healthy snacks among the top 20 vending best sellers”, consumers still say they want healthier vending, particularly women, says the report.
“Almost half of adult consumers would use vending machines more often if the machines sold more healthy food options.
“Females not only disproportionately support healthy vending options, but female vending non-users are more apt than users to do so, suggesting that a wider variety of healthier vending options could draw women (who are less apt then men to use them) toward vending machines.
“Students and 18-24s, among food and drink vending’s most prevalent users, also disproportionately support the notion of healthy vending options, suggesting that vending operators should experiment with healthier productst o further engage these consumers.
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