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Fundamentals of Offering Healthier Snacks in Micro Markets

As consumers become increasingly more health conscious, vending and micro market operators are rising to the challenge of finding a variety of quality items to include in their line of SKUs. In fact this year, nutritious snacks, or healthy snacks, constituted two percent of sales by dollar revenue in the vending industry, according to Automatic Merchandiser’s State of the Industry report.

For the roughly 1,000 micro market operators servicing nearly 10,000 locations in the U.S. as reported by the NAMA, better-for-you category growth offerings are not only necessary but essential to capturing the majority of consumers who say they snack at least once per day.

Look at key trends

In 2016, consumers will be more concerned with what’s in their food than what is not, said NPD Group. The micro market consumer is no exception. Lynn Robles, Automatic Merchandiser 2013 Distributor of the Year award recipient, notes that micro market customers are looking for fresh products, so operators should be sure to offer a variety of items that meet that criteria. “Keep it simple,” Robles said. “Start with three to four offerings of key items such as pre-packaged salads, fresh fruit, hard boiled eggs and sandwiches with vegetables.”

‘Fresh’ isn’t the only healthy trend that consumers gravitate towards though.  A growing number of them are moving towards consumption of organic food, with TechSci global market research company estimating the global organic food market to grow at over 16 percent by 2020.

Other key better-for-you growth trends include gluten-free, non-GMO (genetically modified organism), local, simple ingredients, whole-grain and allergen-free. Manufacturers are creating packaged goods that meet the healthy snacking criteria and trends consumers are looking for. Robles recommends offering two to three organic, gluten-free and non-GMO items per market. From there micro market operators should look at offering a non-dairy milk choice, organic juice or lemonades as well as water.

Robles notes that micro markets should have a meal replacement selection such as bars, too. “If operators don’t think these will sell, I point out that this category is one of the largest sections in a convenience store,” she said.

Placement guidelines

Placement of healthy and better-for-you items in a micro market is just as important as the selection of products.

Although micro markets should not be considered the same as convenience stores, Robles recommends presenting healthy item sections similar to the grocery and c-store industry. Healthy, better-for-you items should be highlighted within the markets and displayed in their own section.

Healthy sections can be highlighted through décor such as signage with bright, eye-catching colors and icons that reflect a ‘health-focused’ theme above the shelving or below each rack.

“One of my biggest suggestions is to make sure the section looks top rate!” said Robles. “Don’t mix any traditional vending items in the healthy section; it needs to be a true, dedicated better-for-you area.”

Replace the vending hat

The vending and micro market user experience is fundamentally different; therefore micro marketoperators looking to succeed in that area need to cast their vending hats aside.

Micro markets allow for a much wider selection of items, including better-for-you options unavailable or too large for a vending machine. Micro markets also allow operators the ability to offer items that are of greater perceived value which can then be sold at a higher price.

In order to make the most out of fresh food and healthy items in micro markets, operators should look towards bundling ‘healthy’ item sales such as pairing a better-for-you drink with a healthy snack. Additional business can be captured by offering take-home meals to the micro market customer leaving at the end of the day.

The quality of healthy items has increased since the introduction of micro markets; manufacturers are responding to the consumer demand for health-focused items and micro market operators should as well. Micro market success will come from the quality and the variety of better-for-you options.

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