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According to Automatic Merchandiser’s annual State of the Industry for Vending and Micro Markets, found in this issue’s report, beverages are the most popular products that consumers buy — from coffee and tea, either freshly brewed or in cans and bottles, to soda, energy drinks and healthy beverages. Some trends that operators have shared are that consumers want more product offerings, better-for-you options and sustainable solutions.
The following are just a few examples of the many beverage options available for vending, OCS and micro markets, and suppliers shared their insights on what consumers are looking for.
Office coffee service
According to Alliant Coffee Solutions, a leading provider of high-quality coffee and related products for the office environment, more than 92% of office coffee consumers say that brand is important when selecting their coffee.
“Our focus on quality, commitment to sustainability and wide variety of products gives OCS operators the freedom to create the perfect coffee experience for their customers’ unique workspaces, cafeterias or other foodservice environments,” said Marina Cappagli, marketing director with Alliant Coffee Solutions.
“We have made great strides in introducing recyclable, biodegradable and compostable materials into our products and packaging and continue to look for ways in which we can improve our practices and use of sustainable materials,” she added.
Cappagli also shared that employers are looking for ways to boost office culture, and coffee can improve productivity by keeping employers engaged and energized, encouraging a positive workday, and increasing social interaction with coffee breaks.
Alliant offers compostable soft coffee pods, single-serve cups, whole bean, ground coffee, teas, portion packs, flavored sweetener packets, soluble powders, and more.
Its portfolio includes The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Wolfgang Puck Coffee, Organa Organic Teas, Reunion Coffee Roasters, Donut Shop Blend, Flavor Singles Flavored Sweetener, Hurricane Coffee, Barnie’s, Carlo’s Bake Shop, Guy Fieri, Skinnygirl, Donut Shop Drive Thru, Cafexpress and Barista Select solubles.
Also making strides in office coffee and tea service is Bona Fide Nitro Coffee & Tea, headquartered in Ventura, California. Bona Fide produces perfect-pour nitro coffee and tea kegs for esteemed roasters and specialty coffee distribution. It is the first company on the market with a naturally stable keg brewing process for coffee and tea. Bona Fide Nitro Coffee & Tea was founded in 2015 with a mission to brew and deliver nitro coffee and tea using an innovative, disruptive technology that’s sustainable.
“Our process reduces typical cold brew waste by 50%, and our kegs are shelf stable and do not need refrigeration during shipping,” said Spencer Weiner, partner and COO of Bona Fide Brewing Company LLC.
The company’s newest products include a Hot Nitro Coffee Dispenser that provides a constant supply of hot Nitro Coffee with the pull of a tap handle. It also offers a “No Nitrogen bottle required” countertop Cold Nitro Coffee Dispenser Double Faucet. With the Bona Fide Bag-In-Keg “BIK” keg solution, kegs are pre-infused and ready-to-pour.
Steve Erickson, senior manager business development of Caribou Coffee Operating Company, founded in 1992, added that partners are asking for a variety of products and roast profiles across program offerings.
“Caribou Coffee craft roasts in small batches to bring out the full flavor potential of our beans,” said Erickson. “We offer light, medium and dark roast coffees, in both fractional pack and whole bean, that appeal to a variety of palates.”
When asked about advice for operators, he added, “Now more than ever the value of providing exceptional customer service is evident. One example would be for operators to partner with their clients to create and offer employee-focused solutions that increase job satisfaction and employee engagement, ensure healthy workspaces and strengthen company culture.”
Caribou also offers a range of ready-to-drink coffee, such as its cold brew for vending. The 11.5-oz cans are shelf-stable and conveniently portable.
“In addition to our Cold Brew Black and Vanilla Crafted, we launched our Caramel Crafted cans in March,” said Erickson. “Cold press coffee is a heritage product for our company that we have been serving in our stores for over 29 years. We are now bringing these beverages to our customers in a convenient ready-to-drink package.”
Caribou also offers a range of teas such as Earl Grey, Hibiscus Berry, Mint Verbena, Bou Black and Hot Cinnamon Spice.
Sustainable coffee pods
Another company with a focus on sustainability for office coffee service is Smile Beverage Werks, a Delaware Public Benefit (“B”) corporation that makes sustainable and compostable coffee pods, coffee bags and straws.
Sands said sustainability is a leading concern of customers for pod coffee. His advice for operators is to be cautious: “Many claim to have sustainable solutions, but not all components are certified, or excess wasteful packaging is involved.”
Businesses across the industry are currently looking to expand better-for-you options in their food and beverage decisions, said Brad Coleman, vice president of sales at Karma Culture LLC.
Karma Culture offers its Karma Probiotic Water and Karma Wellness Water in vending and micro markets across the country. Karma is sold as an 18-oz. bottle, highlighted by its patented cap technology. The active ingredients (probiotics, vitamins, adaptogens) are stored in the cap until the consumer is ready to drink.
“Just peel, push, shake, thus ensuring all probiotics (2 billion cultures) and vitamins (6 vitamins at 100% RDI) are delivered at maximum efficacy and stated levels on the label,” said Coleman. “Consumers also seem to enjoy the interactive process of seeing their beverage transform to wellness right in front of their eyes.”
For its latest product line, Coleman said the company is excited to introduce Karma CBD Water, which will be available in select states beginning March 2022.
Coleman’s suggestion for operators: “To have all beverage segments represented to appease the masses and to continue to look for hot trending brands. Don’t fall into just relying on the big beverage companies to make their recommendations because there are so many innovative brands in the marketplace that taste great, offer functional benefits and will allow you to stand out from the crowd.”
Another fast-growing company in the functional beverages category is Dallas, Texas-based Poppi, offering prebiotic soda for vending, micro markets and OCS as well as pantry. Infused with apple cider vinegar, Poppi delivers healthy benefits while only containing natural ingredients like fruit juice and plant-based sweeteners. Poppi has 4g to 5g of sugar and 15 to 25 calories a can.
“With the lingering effects of the pandemic still foremost in people’s minds, everyone is more careful than ever as to what they eat and drink,” said Smaltz. “All demographics are looking for added value and function in what they purchase. Operators need to continue to broaden selections offered in all channels of business. There is no ‘one size fits all’ POG anymore. It is vitally important to be tuned in to what your customers demand and to provide those items or someone else will.”
Rowdy Mermaid, founded in 2012 and based in Boulder, Colorado, offers two lines of functional wellness beverages, Kombucha and Adaptonic, in a sophisticated, portable and infinitely recyclable 12-oz. slim can for vending, micro markets and OCS space. “Our Kombucha is crisp, refreshing and light (without the “vinegary” bite), making Rowdy Mermaid supremely delicious and easy to drink,” said Danielle Eberly, director of sales, Foodservice. “Our success stems from our unique flavors that are not too sweet, approachable, crafted with sustainably sourced ingredients in a sleek package with a playful name, which appeals to a broad audience.”
Beyond Kombucha, its new line of sparkling immunity tonics, Adaptonic, are made with bright botanicals, fruits, herbs and reishi mushrooms for immunity without the mushroom taste.
“There’s a rising consciousness around the benefits of holistic living, shifting people’s priorities toward well-being. As a result, we see that consumers are seeking more from their beverages,” said Eberly. “Quenching your thirst or trying new flavors isn’t enough. They are turning to beverages and specific ingredients to help heal, prevent diseases, and treat today’s prevalent conditions. But they must also be supremely delicious.” ■