What do most people have in common nowadays? Busy schedules. The seemingly endless hustle and bustle of daily life can leave little time to fuel up with proper nutrition. From running to work or school to delivering little ones here and there, our days seem replete with responsibility. We have truly all become accustomed to spinning a lot of plates. And that’s left many turning to vending machines to refuel.
In fact, it’s just that need for quick nutrition that’s helped drive vending to a whopping $25-billion-a-year industry. We can all identify with that sweet thud of a hunger-satisfying snack dropping from its slot.
But have you ever thought about being the one behind the vending machine business?
Owning and operating a vending machine business can be a lucrative business opportunity. Whether you’re looking for a side hustle to earn passive income or even a full-time gig to replace your nine-to-five job, being the proprietor of these time-saving machines can truly deliver.
There are many factors to consider before starting your own vending machine business. But selecting a customized product mix that meets the needs of each of your vending machine locations is one of the most important. After all, customers simply won’t purchase from your machines if they don’t like what they see.
Consumer preferences vary, sometimes drastically, between locations. Gummy bears and sour worms are unlikely to sell very well in a machine placed in a gym. Plus, some locations actually require a certain product mix. For instance, the Smart Snacks in School national nutrition standards limit fat, sugar, sodium, and calorie content of foods and drinks sold in vending machines at schools.
Recent research shows that (as mentioned above) consumers increasingly prefer convenient snacks. But that’s not all. They say convenient food isn’t enough; it also needs to be healthy. And this healthy mindset is helping drive positive change nationwide.
With support from the Partnership for a Healthier America and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, two nonprofits that work to alleviate obesity in young Americans, the National Automatic Merchandising Association’s (NAMA)1,000 members have recently agreed to raise the share of healthy options in their machines from 24% to 33%.
The data clearly show that the traditional vending machine fare of sweet sodas, confectionaries, and greasy chips is being left behind for more wholesome options. Plus, the term “vending” has expanded itself to include more than snacks and drinks. You can easily find modern machines stocked with entrées, side dishes, wellness products, personal hygiene essentials, and more. Still, snacks and drinks make up the majority of vending sales. So, if you want to maximize your revenue as a vending business owner, you’ll want to know those hottest selling items. With that in mind . . .
What are the most popular healthy vending machine snacks and drinks?
Whether it’s animal- or plant-based, jerky is a mess-free, tasty, on-the-go snack that packs some serious nutritional value. Both animal-based and vegan jerkies deliver a protein punch. And the modern, cruelty-free, plant-based jerkies come with the added benefit of no cholesterol. Whether you’re stocking traditional beef jerky or “fake” jerky, it’s sure to please health-conscious snackers.
So much more than dried grapes (OK, not literally), but these little dried fruit morsels come standard with iron, calcium, vitamin C, fiber, and even a dash of protein. Plus, they’re a good source of antioxidants and may even help lower the risk of heart disease.
Not just for those bound for the mountains, the trail mix has been adopted everywhere for its nutritious and filling nature. Trail mix delivers on its active, healthy lifestyle image (as long as you don’t only snack on the M&Ms). It is rich in peanuts, and while those are high in calories, they’re also a rich source of protein and fiber—both of which help you feel full longer. Plus, depending on the variety, trail mix can come packed with dried fruit like raisins or dried cranberries, other healthy nuts, and, yes, even chocolate—which itself can be healthy, in moderation.
This popular kids’ snack has grown up. And the new selection of squeezable, on-the-go sauces, available in flavor mashups like banana, peach, and strawberry, are sure to please the masses. As the tried-and-true adage goes, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”
From salty to sweet, energy bars come in an impressive variety of flavors sure to please any consumer’s taste buds. Depending on the brand, many of these bars labeled “healthy” actually . . . are. Popular flavors from the major brands are sure to fly out of vending machine slots.
Plain water. No calories. No sweeteners. No caffeine. Just water. The fact is, water is consistently one of the top-selling beverages in vending machines the world over. And the benefits of staying hydrated are well documented. Stocking water bottles is a failproof source of “healthy” revenue, as nobody can do without it.
More consumers are turning to bottled or canned coffees for their morning caffeine fix. Many of these coffee drinks have no calories, artificial sweeteners, or chemicals that can’t be pronounced. From cold brew to iced, coffee is a refreshing and healthy alternative to chemical-rich energy drinks or sugar-packed sodas.
According to the Tea Association of the USA, about 75 to 80% of the tea consumed in the U.S. is iced. These chilly-bottled teas aren’t only healthy for vending sales, they’re also . . . healthy. Tea is rich in antioxidants that fight cell-damaging free radicals. Plus, research has found that people who drink green tea may have lower bad cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
Spare your customers a messy blender by offering bottled non-dairy smoothies in your vending machines. These fruit and vegetable concoctions taste great and are full of good-for-you ingredients. But smoothies are so much more than a refreshing, hydrating drink. They can also serve as a healthy meal alternative and reduce the urge to snack throughout the day.
Bottled water tops the list of beverage sales by volume in the U.S. But carbonated water was second on that same list. And that’s no wonder. As consumers increasingly look for healthier hydration options, these bubbly waters provide a flavorful and fizzy choice. Many of these refreshing drinks are infused with a natural essence of fruitiness that’s sure to please those health-conscious consumers at your vending machine locations—or even school kids.
An Unmatched Business Opportunity
If you’re considering your own vending machine business, you’re on the path to a rewarding and fulfilling enterprise. Vending machines have always been instrumental in providing convenient access to sustenance throughout the world, but that has never been truer than now. And it’s just one reason why the vending machine industry is rapidly growing.
However, before diving in, consider healthy products to maximize revenue in this increasingly health-conscious world. And, since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the trend toward healthier options has only grown—as well as ushering in a need for convenient and quick access to personal protective products (PPE) in vending machines.