Summary: For many of us across the country, trips to the vending machine are a common occurrence. We surveyed 500 Australians, split evenly between men and women, to understand consumers’ attitudes towards and behaviour using vending machines.
What We Buy from Vending Machines
We’ve all been there. The mid afternoon trip to the ‘vendo’ to curb a craving.
We presented Agents with items commonly found in vending machines, asking them to select which they purchase.
With 57% visiting a vending machine mid to late afternoon, it seems that a sugar craving is the more popular reason to visit a vending machine with 62% of respondents purchasing chocolate and 59% choosing a sugar-laden soft drink. Savory snacks come in 3rd position with 58% on the hunt for a salty snack.
Interestingly, the second most popular choice of beverage is water with 51% choosing to quench their thirst with the elixir of life, which is aligned with the growing trend of the general population making more health conscious food choices.
“Consumers are more focused on health and have concerns about calorie intake,” says Alison Watkins, Managing Director of Coca Cola Amatil. With a 9.3% sales increase in still drinks and energy drinks categories, the group is planning on growing its still drinks category and continues to focus on offering smaller, 250mL soft drink cans, plus premium non-alcoholic drinks including ginger beer.
Barriers to Higher Vending Machine Sales
With society moving toward being cashless, one of the largest barriers for higher vending machine usage and sales is the lack of cashless purchase options such as Tap & Go or Apple Pay.
Just under half (44%) mentioned that the greatest barrier to vending machine use is lack of carrying cash / change.
Other significant barriers to higher vending machine use is increased price – higher prices for basic items that can be easily purchased at supermarkets are making consumers think twice about impulse snack purchases. Machine location is another barrier with many Agents commenting that they rarely even see a vending machine in their day to day life. Finally, with the increase in consumers paying more attention to their health and food choices, 29% commented that there are simply not enough healthy options in vending machines.
Where do you regularly purchase snack (ie, non-meal) food and/or beverages from?
Almost all Agents (95%) stated that they regularly purchase snack foods and beverages from the supermarket either as part of their regular supermarket shop, or they would prefer to visit a supermarket for the purpose of a snack item purchase. Impulse purchases at the check out account for a quarter of all snack food/ beverage purchases.
37% mentioned that convenience stores/ petrol stations are where they purchase snack foods and beverages from.
The overwhelming response in favour of supermarkets as the preferred place to purchase snack food is primarily price driven with supermarkets offering far better value for money than vending machines. In addition, supermarkets give the consumer more control over the nutritional value of their snacking choices.
For healthy returns, vending machines need to offer healthy options.
Healthy snacking isn’t a fad. It’s here to stay. Amongst our Agents, 58% mentioned that they are concerned about consuming healthy snack food and beverages; women are more likely to be concerned about consuming healthy snack food (63% female vs 53% male who gave a rating of 7+)
So what did they think about the healthy options available in vending machines? More than half (57%) of Agents considered salted nuts as not unhealthy snack option in vending machines, compared to a much lower number considering chocolate bars (19%) potato chips (18%) and chocolate bars (14%) as not unhealthy.
What do these results say about our snacking habits?
As people become more educated about food and its influence on overall health, they are more and more conscious about making more healthy choices on what goes into their bodies. A movement toward better government regulation toward high calorie/low nutrition food is supported with an average of 50% of Agents agreeing that this is important.
In light of this movement, an overhaul on the product range in vending machines may be what is in order to improve their overall appeal and make them more attractive to the health conscious consumer.