Chicago Employees Crave Healthy Snacks

Healthy Snacks in Chicago

The increase in demand for healthy snacks is not only about which ingredients are in a snack; it is also about the ingredients that aren’t there. According to Mintel, a global market research firm, 84 percent of consumers want to reduce the amount of natural sugar and artificial sweetener in their diets. Participants indicated that weight management and future health concerns were the top reasons to cut sugar. In fact, 31 percent of participants agreed that removing sugar from their diet causes more weight loss than cutting out fat. Millennials or 18 to 34 year olds had additional concerns about sugar and its negative impact on dental health and the appearance of their skin.     

Decreasing the amount of sugar consumed has many more positive effects on a Chicago individual’s health than the few previously mentioned. Some additional health benefits of eating less sugar are

  • lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol (LDL) levels,
  • decrease risk of fatty liver disease, diabetes, and heart attack,
  • Lower chances of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia,
  • improved cognitive function, memory, and responsiveness,
  • increased energy levels.

Avoiding sugar isn’t always as easy as it sounds though. Sugar is frequently hidden in products that aren’t usually associated with sugar. It is also referred to by other names and found in many different forms including molasses, organic cane sugar, fruit juice concentrate, malt sugar, corn syrup, honey, syrup, and words ending in “ose” dextrose, lactose, maltose, fructose, glucose, and sucrose. The following suggestions are a few ways that can help Chicago employees and students choose healthy snacks and reduce sugar consumption:

  • check the ingredient list for hidden sugar
  • eat as close to natural as possible
  • check the nutrition label to see how much sugar is actually in the product
  • gradually lower your sugar intake
  • eat more protein and healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, avocados, and olives
  • drink naturally flavored seltzer water as an alternative to sugary beverages

Healthy Snacks in Chicago

The increase in demand for snacks and beverages with less sugar has led to new, easy-to-find, healthier choices including kombucha teas and drinking vinegars. Since Chicago employees are looking for a wide variety of flavors and sweetness levels, there are many new opportunities to offer healthy snacks and beverages at all sweetness levels in the office break room.

Consider offering all of your Chicago employees the chance to enjoy a healthy snack or beverage while at work. Whether enjoying a can of flavored carbonated water or a healthy snack from the vending machine, there is an option for everyone. For more information about adding healthy snacks and beverages to your office break room or updating your current vending machine options, call Mark Vend at (847) 291-9216.

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A New Coffee Service Benefit for Chicago Employees

Office Coffee Service in Chicago

Enjoying coffee and tea from the office coffee service may provide Chicago employees with additional health benefits. Scientists from Boston Children’s Hospital recently found that consuming caffeine may help decrease pain sensitivity in those with chronic pain. The consumed caffeine caused dopamine, a carrier of messages between nerve cells in the brain, to flood the brain’s pleasure center resulting in decreased pain sensitivity, a huge benefit for chronic pain suffers.

Healthy levels of dopamine help regulate emotions, cognition, food intake, and the endocrine system. Chronic pain, on the other hand, often causes endocrine, cardiovascular, immune, neurological, and musculo-skeletal system problems resulting in decreased immune health, spikes in blood pressure, trouble sleeping, trouble concentrating, and disruptions of daily activities. It appears that caffeine causes a boost in dopamine which works against some of the negative effects of chronic pain.

This new information is great news for the 25.3+ million adults who live with chronic pain. But caffeine has other benefits that can improve workplace productivity too. Caffeine has been known to decrease fatigue, offer short term mental boost, and improve memory. Coffee, tea, and chocolate are a few of the more familiar sources of caffeine. The different levels of caffeine in caffeinated beverages is a result of different places of origin, varying processing and preparation methods (including brewing time), and the amount of milk or cream added.

Typical levels of caffeine in tea and coffee include:

  • Coffee: 8 fl oz. mug includes 95 mg to 165 mg
  • Espresso: 1 fl oz. shot includes 47 mg to 64 mg
  • Black Tea: 8 fl oz. mug includes 25 mg to 48 mg
  • Green Tea: 8 fl oz. mug includes 25 mg to 29 mg
  • Ready-to-Drink Bottled Tea: 8 fl oz. bottle includes 5 mg to 40 mg

Office Coffee Service in Chicago

If coffee and tea have too much caffeine or are too acidic for your Chicago employee, enjoying a bar of dark chocolate or a mug of hot cocoa from the office break room is another option. Both dark chocolate and hot cocoa have less caffeine than the traditional office coffee service choices.

Typical levels of caffeine in chocolate include:

  • Hot Cocoa: 8 fl oz. mug includes 9 mg
  • Dark Chocolate: 3.5 oz. bar with 70% to 80% cocoa includes 80mg
  • Dark Chocolate: 3.5 oz. bar with 50% to 69% cocoa includes 70mg
  • Milk Chocolate: 3.5 oz. bar includes 20 mg

Consider offering all of your Chicago employees the chance to enjoy a caffeine pick-me-up while at work. Whether enjoying coffee or tea from the office coffee service or a bar of dark chocolate from the vending machine, there is an option for everyone. For more information about adding coffee service or updating your micro-market or pantry service options, call Mark Vend at (847) 291-9216.

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Technology and the Chicago Vending Machine Experience

Vending Machine Technology in Chicago

Get ready to meet the new vending machine. In the not so distant future, vending machines will communicate with consumers through an application (app) on their smartphone that includes artificial intelligence (AI) technology. The app will learn the Chicago customer’s preferences in order to improve and personalize the experience. Customers will also be notified via the app about future promotions and new ways to use the app such as placing a single order for multiple beverages.

Wireless Technology

While this technology is not available everywhere, most vending machines use other recently developed technology to improve the Chicago customer experience. Gone are the days when coins were needed to purchase a snack or beverage from a vending machine. Today, credit cards and debit cards can be used on almost all machines to make cashless payments over wireless technology. Many locations also offer the option of making mobile payments on a smartphone via Apple Pay and Android Pay.

Wireless technology also offers additional benefits for both the consumer and the vending provider. Because of the constant wireless connection, real-time sales data moves between the vending machine and the vendor helping control inventory, track products, and forecast product demand.

Vending Machine Technology in Chicago

Environmentally-Friendly Technology

New technology has also positively impacted the environment. Vending machines that meet Energy Star ratings cost less to operate and use less overall energy. Installing light-emitting diode (LED) light bulbs further decreases energy consumption and energy costs. Unlike most lighting that turns off when not in use, lighting in vending equipment remains on. Compared to other types of light bulbs in vending machines, LED light bulbs emit light in a specific direction without substantial loss of light, and emit less overall heat. The U.S. Department of Energy states that “today’s LED bulbs can be six-seven times more energy efficient than conventional incandescent lights and cut energy use by more than 80 percent.”

Delivering vending machine snacks and beverages to office break rooms in Chicago has also been positively impacted by environmentally-friendly technology. There are fewer and lighter trucks on the road because real-time sales data and inventory tracking provide more accurate information about the products that need to be delivered. When combined with changes in vehicle emissions’ requirements, the trucks that are on the road use fewer natural resources and produce fewer vehicle emissions.

Overall, new technologies have had a positive impact. How have new technologies improved your Chicago employees’ experiences in the office break room? Whether you want to install vending machines that have up-to-date technologies for the first time, or if you need to upgrade your current machines, we can help. Call Mark Vend at (847) 291-9216 for more information.

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Chicago Employees Enjoy Caffeine’s Benefits

Caffeine Snacks and Beverages in Chicago

Maintaining recommended fitness levels is a challenge for many individuals, but there is new research about caffeine that might make it just a bit easier to accomplish. Recent research from the University of São Paulo in Brazil found a link between caffeine consumption and more effective workouts. In the study, the participants’ cycling speed was recorded after the cyclist burned 450 calories. The first time after taking a caffeine pill, the second time after taking a placebo, and the third time after taking nothing. The average cycling speed after consuming the caffeine pill was 3.3 percent faster than when compared to taking nothing. That is a substantial boost.   

Benefits

But caffeine offers more benefits to Chicago individuals who consume it than just improving one’s workout performance. If you ask, most individuals know that it decreases fatigue first thing in the morning as well as during the mid-afternoon slump. Less familiar may be the idea that caffeine has been found to provide a mental boost for 45 minutes after consuming it and improved memory over the next 24 hours. Chicago employee’s reaction time, and concentration also increases. Each of these benefits on their own are good for employee productivity, but when combined, they could be great.  

Caffeine has also been found to play a role in preventing a number of health conditions including type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, liver disease, as well as reduce the risk of liver cancer and mouth and throat cancers.

Caffeine Snacks and Beverages in ChicagoSources

To get the most benefit, it is best to consume snacks and beverages with naturally occurring caffeine. “Added” caffeine does not contain the powerful antioxidants and vitamins that are found in the naturally occurring form causing its boost to be a sudden jolt up and a fast crash down. Some of the 60 plant species that contain naturally occurring caffeine include cocoa beans, kola nuts, tea leaves, coffee beans, yerba maté, guarana berries, guayusa, and the yaupon holly. Chocolate, tea, and coffee are three of the more popular forms of naturally occurring caffeine in Chicago, and each one contains different beneficial antioxidants.

  • Chocolate: flavonoids, procyanidins, epicatechin, cocoa phenols
  • Tea: epigallocatechin, epicatechin gallate, and epicatechin
  • Coffee: chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, and melanoidins

Which one is your favorite type—chocolate, tea or coffee? Offering all three of them in your Chicago office break room is a cost-effective way to help your employees relax and  at the same time, boost their productivity. For more information about different vending machine or Food Room options, call Mark Vend at (847) 291-9216. We can help you determine the best caffeinated options for your employees.

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The New Meal in Chicago

Healthy Snacks in Chicago

By previous standards, it wouldn’t be considered a meal. It isn’t always consumed at traditional meal times or eaten at a table. But according to those between the ages of 18 and 35 (Millennials), it contributes to their daily nutritional needs and functions as a meal.

What is it?

It is a healthy snack. Millennials are eating a lot of snacks. 92 percent of individuals recently surveyed by Surveygoo said they replace a meal with a snack at least once a week. 50 percent do it four times a week and 26 percent, do it seven times per week. That is a lot of snacking.

Since Millennials are now the largest segment of the population in the U.S. workforce, Chicago employers need to reexamine their break room snack, beverage, and food options. At the top of the list of preferred ingredients for healthy snacks are whole grains, real fruit pieces, and nuts. These healthy ingredients are not just beneficial for Millennials. They are better for everyone. When researching different healthy snack options for your employees, here are three things to consider:

Nutritional Needs

  • Will it stop hunger between meals?
  • Will it help me to stay hydrated?
  • Will it help me to manage my health and diet?

Refuel or Energy Pick-Me-Up

  • Will it give me an energy boost?
  • Will it increase my mental focus?
  • Will it help decrease stress?

Ingredients

  • Whole Grains (oats, brown rice, millet, and quinoa)
  • Plant-Based Proteins (legumes, nuts, and seeds)
  • Fruits and Vegetables (berries, apple, and sweet potato)
  • Low in Sugar

Healthy Snacks in Chicago

Each of these areas can offer benefits when considered on their own. However, when they are considered as a group, the benefits can reach even further. A snack with healthy ingredients that fulfills nutritional needs, keeps an employee hydrated, and improves mental focus positively impacts that individual’s health as well as increases creativity and productivity. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Have you considered including healthy snacks in your Chicago office break room? Whether you are just beginning your office break room journey or would like to update your vending machine or Food Room selections, we can help you with that. Contact Mark Vend at (847) 291-9216 for more information.

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Chicago, How Do You Drink Your Coffee?

Office Coffee Service in Chicago

Did you know that the majority of U.S. coffee drinkers do not drink their coffee black? According to the most recent National Coffee Association’s National Coffee Drinking Trends (NCDT) report, 68 percent of coffee drinkers add some type of non-dairy or dairy product to their coffee, and about 50 percent add a sweetener.

Cream & Sugar Trends

  • Dairy and Non-Dairy Additives
    • 35% add a non-dairy creamer (or coffee whitener, as it is known in some regions)
    • 14% use half and half
    • 13% prefer whole milk
    • 5% enjoy a non-dairy milk alternative
  • Coffee Flavoring Preferences
    • 21% prefer the flavor to be in a powder or liquid creamer
    • 5% would rather add the flavoring by itself
  • Demand for “clean label” creamers or creamers made from natural ingredients including plant-based creamers has surpassed demand for “traditional” flavored creamers
  • Increased Demand for Sweeteners
    • 38% use sugar
    • 12% prefer artificial sweeteners

With an increase in the type and number of potential options that can be used to change the flavor or sweetness of a cup of black coffee, it is important to take the time to understand your employees’ preferences. If their preferences aren’t available, they are likely to go offsite to find that “perfect” beverage.  

Cafe-Style Coffee Service

Offering cafe-style office coffee service in the office break room is a cost-effective way to help encourage Chicago employees to stay onsite when they want a cup of coffee. To make sure everyone is able to customize their coffee, consider offering a mixture of the following products in the office break room:

  • Office Coffee Service in Chicagonon-dairy creamer (or coffee whitener): a plain or flavored liquid or granular substance added to coffee, tea or hot chocolate
  • half-and-half: contains equal parts of whole milk and light cream, and has 10 to 12 percent fat content (more fat than milk, but less fat than cream)
  • milk: cow’s milk that has been fortified with vitamins A and D, and is available as whole milk (~3.5% fat), 2% reduced-fat milk, 1% low-fat milk, and fat-free or skim milk
  • non-dairy “milk” options: almond milk, rice milk, soy milk, etc.
  • sugar: granulated or “regular” sugar, cane sugar, organic sugar, etc.
  • artificial sweeteners: aspartame, saccharin, sucralose, etc.

Which items do your Chicago employees request the most? Are they available? Whether your current coffee service needs a tune-up or you want to create the ultimate break room by adding cafe-style coffee service, Mark Vend can help. For more information, contact us at (847) 291-9216.

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When Is a Chicago Vending Machine not a Vending Machine?

Micro-Markets in Chicago

When it’s a micro-market!

At first glance, a Chicago consumer might see a micro-market and think it is just a decorated space with vending machines, but that is not the case. A micro-market is a cafe-style break room that offers a wide variety of healthy fresh foods as well as snacks and beverages. Not only is it a place to grab a bite to eat, but it is also a relaxing environment to catch up with colleagues during the workday. The micro-market experience is not the only thing that separates a micro-market from a vending machine. How the micro-market is run behind the scenes is a key differentiator.

Since the vending industry’s inception, vending operators have developed multiple best practices that are used to help drive success including inventory placement, tracking, and analysis. Successful micro-markets have caused operators to realize that what it takes to create a successful micro-market is quite different from a successful vending situation. Two important areas to consider are product placement and the size of the SKU (Stock Keeping Unit) count.

Product Placement

Location, location, location isn’t only a phrase used in real estate. It also influences how a Chicago consumer sees products in a vending machine and how that same consumer makes a decision about which product to purchase. To cause an individual to look at all of the products in the vending machine, snacks are placed in strategic spots by color. Items in micro-markets, on the other hand, should be placed in a way that is similar to a convenience store—top sellers placed high and low, and promotional products placed at eye level. Grouping like items, such as healthy snacks, together is also recommended so consumers know where to find them.

Micro-Markets in Chicago

SKU Counts

Generically, a SKU is a unique number assigned to a product that identifies the price, product options, and manufacturer. SKUs help a retailer track inventory, perform stock-takes, identify shrinkage, replenish inventory, and identify profits. Vending operators traditionally kept small SKU counts and worked toward eliminating unnecessary SKUs. Micro-markets, on the other hand, require larger SKU counts to be able to offer Chicago consumers different choices in flavor, size, texture, type, etc. Micro-market operators, for example, have been able to determine that fresh food is in demand by tracking SKU counts. Results from a recent survey support those observations as more than 25% of micro-market sales are from fresh food.

Both the behind the scenes’ activities and the consumer’s’ experience with a micro-market are very different when compared to the same activities and experiences with a vending machine. The micro-market experience is about more than what is placed where; it’s the ultimate employee perk. The micro-market is a unique break room created for your employees to enjoy a healthy snack or freshly prepared meal any time of day. Addressing food preferences, diet restrictions, and requested food selections are just a few of the ways that Mark Vend tailors the micro-market to your organization’s needs.

For more information about the benefits of a micro-market or how to transform your Chicago office break room into the ultimate break room, call us at (847) 291-9216.

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Chicago, Meet the Gluten-Free Snack

Healthy Snacks in Chicago

With the number of Chicago individuals who have to navigate life without gluten because of an illness like Celiac Disease, it is helpful to know that gluten-free foods are now more readily available. A recent report from Research and Markets, Gluten-Free Foods in the U.S. 6th Edition, projected that sales of gluten-free foods in the following categories—Salty Snacks, Crackers, Fresh Bread, Pasta, Cold (ready-to-eat) Cereal, Baking Mixes, Cookies, Flour, and Frozen Bread/Dough—are expected to grow to more than $2 billion by 2020. That is a lot of gluten-free food and snacks.

So, what exactly is gluten? The Celiac Disease Foundation defines gluten as “a general name for the proteins found in wheat (wheatberries, durum, emmer, semolina, spelt, farina, farro, graham, KAMUT® khorasan wheat and einkorn), rye, barley, and triticale – a cross between wheat and rye.” Gluten behaves as the glue that holds food together. Several different categories of ingredients such as fruit, vegetables, and protein do not naturally have gluten. Creating snacks and other grain-based products requires additional knowledge about how each gluten-free ingredient works as the many of the frequently used grains contain gluten.

There are, however, many plant-based gluten-free ingredient options that are now being used to create healthy, tasty, and filling snacks. The following are a few that Chicago employees might be familiar with:

Whole Grain, Gluten-Free Ingredients

  • Amaranth
  • Buckwheat groats (or kasha)
  • Corn (maize)
  • Gluten-free oats
  • Millet
  • Quinoa
  • Sorghum
  • Teff
  • Wild Rice/Brown Rice

Plant-Based, Gluten-Free Ingredients

  • Arrowroot
  • Pulses (beans, lentils & chickpeas)
  • Cassava
  • Chia
  • Flax
  • Nut flours
  • Soy
  • Tapioca
  • White Rice

Healthy Snacks in Chicago

Researchers from Gluten-Free Foods in the U.S., 6th Edition found that “pulse-based [ingredients] are particularly valuable in improving the nutrient quality of gluten-free products, as they are richer in fiber, protein, and micro nutrients than GF [gluten-free] staples rice and tapioca flour. The appeal of ancient and sprouted grains is much like that of pulses. For food processors [or manufacturers], these ingredients provide whole food, plant-based protein sources that enhance appearance, deliver unique tastes and textures, pack a nutritional wallop, and invite variety and innovation.”

With such a wide variety of ingredients and the different ways that they can be used, the availability of tasty gluten-free snacks in Chicago has grown to include many different salty and sweet snack choices. Gluten-free salty snacks often include rice and corn puffs flavored with aged cheddar or popped potato chips with barbecue flavoring. Sweet treats vary from cookies made with rice or oat flour to gluten-free Greek yogurt with a wide variety of fruit choices.

Have you considered offering both gluten-free and traditional snacks and beverages in your office break room? Mark Vend offers both traditional options as well as products that are gluten-free for those who need gluten-free choices. We can also help you determine the best mix of choices to offer in your office break room. For more information, contact Mark Vend at (847) 291-9216.

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More Healthy Snack and Beverage Options Available in Your Chicago Vending Machine

Common negative stigmas are associated with vending machines throughout Chicago. Can’t vending_solutions_1think of any? We’re sure you can but just in case you can’t here are a few:

  • They steal your money or don’t take your money
  • Product gets stuck
  • They only offer junk food

To combat these negative images the vending industry has:

  • Embraced cashless technology
  • Installed SureVend technology – using infrareds to detect whether or not a product has vended, ensuring your employees either get their product or their money back
  • Added healthy beverages and snack options to our product lines

Perhaps the greatest advances have been in regards to point #3. Fitnessmagazine.com listed 10 healthy vending machine snacks that were low fat or fat free including: baked chips, peanuts, pretzels, popcorn, Nature Valley granola bars and even some cookies.

healthymidimage

Although the acknowledgement that it’s possible to find healthy snacks in vending machines is appreciated, this list fails to do justice to the vast variety of healthy alternative options available in vending today.

If we were to make our own list it would include some of the following products:

  • Gluten free items
  • Organic items
  • Vegan items
  •  Beef jerky
  • Be Kind bars
  • Go Picnics
  • Trail mixes
  • PopChips
  • Coconut water
  • Sparkling water
  • Fresh fruit

This list could continue for quite a bit longer but to save your scroll finger let’s just say this: healthy and vending are no longer antonyms but synonyms. Vending machines have progressed with the times and so have the products they offer.

For more information on healthy snack and beverage options available to the vending industry contact your Mark Vend today at (847) 291-9216 .We are happy to provide you with a free no-obligation consultation on your vending needs!

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Does Your Chicago Vending Service Offer the #1 Snack in America?

In a country where concerns over obesity have been a popular platform in recent years you may find the results of a report by The NPD Group that listed fruit as the #1 snack in America surprising.

The NPD Group is a leading global information company that ran a two year study on Snacking in America. The report examined attitudes and behaviors about snacking as well as what caused certain snacking decisions. The results for top snacks were as follows:Frische Früchte

·         Top Snack Food (1st Place): Fruit

·         2nd Place : Chocolate

·         3rd Place: Potato Chips

Although it might be a surprise to see fruit listed first, it may not be quite so shocking when you consider the following:

·         Fruit is a snack consumed throughout the entire day as opposed to some snacks that are more likely consumed just in the afternoon or evening

·          Fresh fruit met 5 of the 7 needs the NPD Group listed as snacking motivators including:

o   Health and weight

o   Hunger satiety

o   Convenience

o   Routine/habit

o   Satisfying a craving

·         Fruit is popular with all age groups from children to senior citizens

·         beautiful brunette holding apples applesHealthier snackers (those who are more likely to choose fruit as a snack) eat more often between meals

With fresh fruit listed as America’s #1 snack don’t miss the opportunity to supply your employees at your Chicago office with fresh fruit either complimentary through your pantry service or for sale through vending.

Ask Chicago’s leading Full Service Vending Provider for information on their fresh fruit service; it might be the perfect way to support your health and wellness program while making your employees’ favorite snack readily available. Call today at (847) 291-9216.

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