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The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the convenience services industry in many ways. Research shows that while Americans were working from home this summer, their snack consumption habits shifted. According to The NPD Group’s Snack Food Behaviors in Challenging Times study, snack food consumption increased 8% during the COVID-19 pandemic, suggesting that consumers are seeking comfort through snacking. This is a larger increase than experienced during the Great Recession (2008–2010), when snack food consumption increased just 1%.
Consumers are also seeking functional foods—nutritious foods that may have a positive effect on health—to promote overall wellness and boost immunity. Roughly three in 10 consumers surveyed for The Hartman Group’s Functional Food & Beverage and Supplements 2020 report indicated they’ve been consuming more functional foods and beverages this year.
As people return to the workplace, there’s a rising demand for employers to supply a variety of quality snack and beverage options on-site for their employees. Micro market operators can create a positive customer experience that’s more than just a snack break by taking the following steps:
1. Offer a variety of quality coffee and snack options
Automatic Merchandiser’s recently released State of the Office Coffee Service Industry report revealed a rising demand for bean-to-cup, single-cup, specialty coffee, iced coffee, cold brew and draft beverages. Multiple operators said the companies they work with are open to providing more options for their employees.
Consumers want the same high-quality coffee products they enjoy outside of the workplace to be available in the office. Wanting to keep employees happy and productive in the workplace, employers met this increasing demand by asking operators to upgrade to premium options such as bean-to-cup brewers, cold brew kegs, specialty beans and a variety of creamers (dairy, plant-based, flavored and better-for-you, for example).
Moving forward, micro market operators should consider promotions that pair popular items—a cup of coffee and a snack such as belVita Breakfast Biscuits, for example—at a discount. Thoughtful, well-promoted activations like the belVita Brew-mance package offered by Mondelēz International Foodservice can encourage loyalty among micro market customers, as it shows that operators—and their employers—are thinking about their needs, especially during challenging times.
2. Provide snack options that are comforting and functional
In a year of heightened anxiety and stress, consumers turned to comfort foods, such as their favorite childhood snacks or a sweet or salty treat, to break up the day. But they’re also more concerned about health and wellness in the wake of a pandemic, making functional foods that deliver more than basic nutrition popular as well. stocking the right mix of comforting snacks and functional foods, micro market operators can give their customers something to look forward to during the workday.
Made with whole grains and available in various flavors, belVita Breakfast Biscuits are individually packaged, making them an easy, appealing on-the-go snack. In addition to being coffee’s perfect match, they pair well with fruit and yogurt to create a balanced meal. They’re also nutrient-rich: belVita Crunchy Breakfast Biscuits have 3 grams of fiber, while belVita Soft Baked Protein Breakfast Bars deliver 10 grams of protein. All are formulated to provide up to four hours of energy as well.
3. Provide a safe experience with touchless equipment
The majority of operators surveyed for the aforementioned State of the Office Coffee Service Industry report said they typically place bean-to-cup brewers in their micro markets. Given many consumers’ concerns about touching shared surfaces right now, it behooves operators to invest in touchless, automated solutions that enable customers to order and customize beverages through their mobile phone apps.
“We are well-equipped and currently have a number of machines in our office set up with touchless features—this is definitely going to be a turning point in our industry that we are ready and excited for,” says Blake Jones, sales and marketing specialist for Bellevue, Washington-based Pot O' Gold Coffee Service. “As soon as we were made aware of manufacturers developing these machines, we advertised it to our customers and have received a lot of interest and great feedback.
In addition to offering both safety and convenience, micro markets keep employees from having to leave the workplace to enjoy their favorite beverage or snack. Find more resources to help you manage your micro market here.
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