Today's consumers have become accustomed to an ever-broader array of confection types and package formats from which to choose when satisfying a sweet tooth. A wide spectrum of chocolates, chews, hard candies and mints (to say nothing of chewing gum), in a multiplicity of flavors and package sizes adorns the shelves of convenience stores, drugstores and supermarkets.
To accommodate this desire for variety, vending operators are applying the latest technology and teaming up with suppliers to deliver what their diverse customer base wants. The recent National Automatic Merchandising Association OneShow afforded a snapshot of what the industry has to offer its patrons.
"With newer, larger, more flexible vending machines like Crane's Merchant, and the growth of self-service micromarkets, operators can bring their customers a lot more candy variety and larger package formats than the traditional vend-size offerings," said Richard Harvey of A&R Services (Monument, CO).
"The trend is toward larger bags and bars that offer more value to the customer, and I've seen more of that at the show," Harvey continued. "We find that customers like that they can buy a large bag of candies like Reese's Pieces, Twizzlers, Hot Tamales or Laffy Taffy for $2, rather than a 1.5-oz. candy bar for $1."
The Colorado operator observed that some people opt for larger bags of candy because they wish to share them with their colleagues, while others simply like the value and the convenience of stashing a supply at their desks.
Nestlé USA representatives at the OneShow also told VT that a growing number of operators are seeking candy in larger package formats to satisfy demand in their self-checkout micromarkets. They also reported that OCS providers are having success selling bulk bags of confections for candy jars on receptionists' desks. At the show, the candy giant launched SweeTarts Gummies in 5.25-oz. packages, aimed primarily at micromarkets, and also showcased its 10-oz. peg bags and standup bags of bite-size confections like Butterfinger Bites and Nestlé Buncha Crunch.
Targeting the growing contingent of nutrition-minded consumers, Nestlé also showcased its new Skinny Cow 0.77-oz. Heavenly Crisp Candy bar, which features wafers layered chocolate crème enrobed in a milk chocolate coating and has only 110 calories.
Photo | LET'S SPLIT IT: Kraft marketing duo Rachel Reed and Jashin Gunani team up to introduce new Dentyne Ice Split2Fit pack. Novel package contains 16 pieces of gum, and can be divided into two convenient packs for easier sharing and portability. It's available in Arctic Chill, Peppermint, Spearmint and Fire (cinnamon) flavors.
Harvey said that one of the new items which struck him as a winner at OneShow was new Jelly Belly Chocolate Dips, dark chocolate-covered cherry jellybeans in 1.2-oz. bags. "I'm confident it will do real well; we're working to get it out right away," he said. Jelly Belly's iconic jellybeans in 1.45-oz. and 3.5-oz. bags in 20-flavor assorted packs and sour varieties have been brisk sellers through A&R's machines. The candy's wide appeal is enhanced by its being fat-free, with only four calories per bean.
The operator observed that, while there were few new chocolate items at the show, the leading big-brand chocolate bars, regular and king-size, remain the top sellers, making it easy to offer customers what they want.
Scotty Blackman of Lee Dee Vending, a Canteen franchise in Alexandria, VA, was pleased with the array of new products he discovered on the OneShow floor. "I've seen a lot more diverse options this year, including choices that can be considered healthier, like fruit snacks and new chocolate items with smaller portion sizes, which helps cut calories," he told VT.
One example he cited is the new Mars Dove bar in milk and dark chocolate varieties. "It's something different from a traditional Snickers or Twix bar, which allows us to be more diverse and give expand variety, and it's a name people know," he said. "It's also smaller than most candy bars, which lets people indulge with fewer calories. Dark chocolate is also becoming more popular for its health benefits."
The Louisiana operator was also pleased to discover Promotion in Motion's Juicefuls fruit snacks, made with real fruit juice, at the show. He said fruit snacks perform especially well in schools and in many business and industry accounts with a high percentage of women in the workforce, who are most likely to gravitate toward chewy, fruity snacks because they are a lighter, lowfat alternative to chocolate.
"For the most part, most people still look for Snickers, Twix, M&M's or Reese's when they approach a vending machine. It always has been that way and probably always will," Blackman said. The company merchandises the majority of its machines with an even mix of large-size selections, like Hershey with almonds, Reese's and Almond Joy, that vend for $1.25. and regular-size vend bars for 90¢.
Nevertheless, a majority of Lee Dee Vending's locations require a selection of options for employees that they consider to be healthier alternatives to candy, like granola and cereal bars. Among those clients are the three dozen schools Lee Dee Vending serves, which require that 50% of the items in the machine meet "better for you" criteria.
"Vending is getting bad press, but we're filling machines with a variety of choices to meet all needs. And in the end, students will stop at the store or eat it after school if they don't see what they like," he said. "The same goes for adults. There is a small percentage of people that will eat the healthier selections, and it's a good thing to provide it for them. But if people don't see their favorite candy or chip choice, they will get it from their Circle K or Chevron. It's a careful balance, because sales go down and stales go up with healthier products, at least in central Louisiana. It's mostly the core best-selling candy that people want to buy."
He added that a slower but consistent seller in the confection category is gum in six-stick packs and blister packs, which vend for 50¢ to 55¢ and $1.50, respectively. More of Lee Dee Vending's customers purchase the stick packs, but the newer packaging that dominates other retail channels has been gaining traction in vending.
At NAMA's OneShow, Kraft debuted its new Split2Fit pack, designed to hold 16 pieces of gum rather than the 12 in a conventional package. It can be divided into two smaller, easier-to-carry packets. The company also met with operators to explain how they can replace their existing gum and mint trays with Vendors Exchange International Inc.'s retrofittable 7th Tray, to dispense the larger gum package format. The 7th Tray replaces gum-and-mint dispensers in many popular machines, accommodating a much wider range of package formats. It is field-installable in 30 minutes or less.
Candy and vending have a long shared history, beginning with "sales stimulator" sampling machines at the turn of the 20th Century. New technology continues to keep vending in the forefront of satisfying the public's demand for confections.
Photo | CHOCOLATE ON DISPLAY: Lou Pace (left), Quality Brokerage (Turnersville, NJ) checks out Dove "silky smooth" dark chocolate bar at NAMA OneShow in Las Vegas as Mars Chocolate North America's Maggie Cass shows off its milk chocolate counterpart and Rick Roth demonstrates large touchscreen display. Controlled by Vendors Exchange International's VE Connect logic, it presents dynamic images that patrons can rotate for complete product information.
Photo | TAKE YOUR PICK: Showcasing variety of Storck USA LP vending items at NAMA OneShow are (from left) Michael Phillips, Gary Parks and Bob Anderson. Storck line includes Werther's Original hard candies in vendible bags, rolls and novel boxed Sugar Free Mini formats, as well as other favorites such as Riesen chocolate-covered chocolate caramels and Mamba Fruit Chews, both offered in vendible bags and "stick" packs, and classic Toffifay 4-piece pack.
Photo | CHOCOLATE COATED: Jelly Belly's Brad Leech (r.) hosts sampling session to introduce Chocolate Dips chocolate-covered jellybeans to Richard Harvey of A&R Services (Monument, CO). Jelly Belly also has a new direct sales program, through which the company will ship product directly to operators anywhere in the U.S. for a $100 minimum. Call Leech at (480) 319-0704 for more information. | SEE STORY
Photo | LIQUID BURST: Promotion in Motion's Dave Taylor (l.) and Jim Finelli (r.) flank Chris Taylor of Triangle Vending & Water Co. (W. Jefferson, NC), who is sampling brand-new Juicefuls juice-filled fruit snacks with 100% real fruit juice. Available in Berry Mania, Strawberry Blast, Fruit Wave and Tropical Burst, Juicefuls begin shipping in late May. Promotion in Motion offers an extensive range of confections for vending.