By Karen Appold
So what’s new on your fair’s menu this year? Expect no end to the popularity of the familiar corn dog.
Food vending machines can be a good choice for hurried customers or individuals with few other onsite food choices. How can vending operators boost sales from these devices? Mike Digilio, director of sales for American Vending Sales, Elk Grove Village, Ill., said potential customers are attracted to a well-lit vending machine that looks newer, and said to make sure and offer what people want.
American Vending Sales’ best-selling meals are fresh sandwiches such as egg salad or chicken salad for $2.50, or hamburgers that customers can heat up. “Try to mix it up, because you don’t want food to look stagnant,” he said.
As far as snacks, Digilio said Doritos, nachos or Cheetos are what people want. “Bagged items seem to go faster,” he said. M&Ms and Snickers are still popular, but bagged chips seem to do a bit better, he added.
Coke, Pepsi and Diet Coke remain the top beverage sellers. “I think this is because they are the most advertised and probably still taste better than most other offerings,” Digilo said. “If you’re a Coke drinker, you’re a Coke drinker.”
Specialty drinks, such as flavored waters, teas and energy drinks, are gaining momentum, and are particularly popular with the younger generation. “I guess they need a boost,” Digilio said. “The older generation seems to prefer coffee.”
Brand Recognition Is Key
As far as best-selling meals, Don Delaney, president, AYSV Food Services, Erlanger, Ky.., said “BIG AZ” sandwiches from AdvancePierre Foods are popular, particularly cheeseburgers, chicken sandwiches and dual package hot dogs. These items are refrigerated and need to be heated in a microwave. Jimmy Dean’s sausage biscuits and White Castle burgers are also popular.
In the snack food category, Grippo’s BAR-B-Q flavored chips are sought after. “The company is located in nearby Cinncinnati,” Delaney said. “The company’s name is well recognized in the area we service.”
Cheez-Its and Cheetos are pretty big sellers, too. “I think that’s because of brand recognition,” he said.
Mountain Dew is the company’s best-selling beverage. “Again, I think it’s because of brand recognition and it caters to the younger crowd,” Delaney said. “Our fastest-growing segment is Diet Mountain Dew. I think more people are becoming more health conscious.”
To generate interest in a meal, snack or beverage machine, David Goldfarb, owner, Prime Time Amusements, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said location is key. Place them in areas where people will want a snack, he said.
Goldfarb finds that the best-selling snack items are M&Ms products. “They are well known,” he said. “They go back to the 1800s.”
As for beverages, Coke is a favorite. “People like it because they grew up with it,” Goldfarb said.
Every Bite Counts
Alan Drazen, vice president, Midlantic Vending, Moorestown, N.J., said Choco Tacos, manufactured and distributed by Unilever, are a top-selling ice cream novelty. “It has become a well-known, standard item,” said Drazen, who invented Choco Tacos and reported sales of 50 million per year. This dessert consists of a sugar cone shell in the shape of a taco that is filled with vanilla fudge ice cream and rolled in milk chocolate and roasted peanuts. “Unlike a traditional cone where you just get nuts and chocolate on the top, with the taco you get everything with every bite. It’s a unique eating experience.”
Ice cream sandwiches and chocolate chip cookie sandwiches (vanilla ice cream between two cookies) are also good sellers. “You get ice cream with every bite,” Drazen said. “These sandwiches are standbys that people have grown up with and learned to love.”
In its candy machines, the most popular items are M&Ms, Snickers and sour Skittles. “In my view, Mars makes the finest chocolate products in the United States,” he said. “I think when you use real chocolate in all of your products it delivers a message to the consumer. I think that’s why they do well.”
Regarding beverages, Midlantic Vending does well with Turkey Hill teas and juices. “The way they are manufactured requires that they are refrigerated throughout the distribution channel,” Drazen said. “This results in a cleaner taste and better flavor profile.”
Midlantic Vending generates interest in its vending machines by offering high-quality products at fair market prices.
Tasty and Fun
Tony Digregorio, owner, NGA Vending Inc., Jupiter, Fla., suggested strategically placing vending machines near entrances, other vending machines and arcade games. “Kids are more apt to see them and gravitate to them to get something to eat or chew,” he said. NGA Vending Inc., which sells hard candies and gum, said Spree is the top seller. “I think kids and adults like the different colored tablets.” Digregorio said. “They come in tasty fruit flavors and are kind of chewy.”
Runtz and Rascals, which are also colorful candies, and bubble gum are also popular choices. NGA Vending Inc. serves communities from Fort Laurderdale, Fla., to Vero, Fla. Digregorio said areas that are north tend to be more rural, while southern cities are more populated.