The food vending industry must act now if it is to meet the dual consumer demands for healthy eating and on-the-go convenience, says Stephanie French, Managing Director of nutrition strategy consultants Harlequin Plus, advisors to some of the top companies in the UK food industry.
She told the European Vending Association's annual meeting in Brussels that the vending industry was uniquely placed to capitalise upon the health trend due to its ability to offer 24 hour convenience and immediate gratification. “One of the most difficult times for consumers to maintain a healthy diet is on-the-go,” she said. "The industry must take a proactive, not a reactive, approach. For example, the current debate over food quality in schools should be seen as presenting a new opportunity for vending rather than a threat: an opportunity to convert children to the concept of vending as a healthy snacking option, a concept which may then remain with them for life.”
She told delegates that consumers’ focus was set to shift towards maximising nutrient intake per calorie. "The nutrient content of fresh produce has declined over the past 50 years," she said. "There's an increasing realisation that a healthy balanced diet may not be enough. Vending machines are strongly placed to offer daily dose products in convenient locations where they can be targeted to very specific consumer groups”.
She warned Europe's food vending industry that if it failed to take this opportunity there were others ready to do the job. "If the vending industry doesn’t provide products to fulfil the health aspirations of consumers, then the manufacturers of healthier foods themselves will re-design their lines with convenience in mind and snatch the market away from vending," she warned. "The industry has a fantastic opportunity to create a paradigm shift in how vending is viewed by the consumer, but that opportunity won't last forever. The industry must act now."
Stephanie French was speaking at the European Vending Association’s Conference “Healthy Eating: Vending Solutions” at the Sheraton Airport Hotel in Brussels.
• Stephanie French is Managing Director of Harlequin Plus, which provides strategic advice to key players in the food industry on future trends in nutrition and their impact on consumer demand for food.
• Harlequin Plus, founded in 1992, has worked for leading food manufacturers and retailers in the UK and internationally.