New Food and Beverage Choices Fill Millennials’ Shopping Carts in Chicago

Healthy Food and Beverage Options in Chicago

Which food and beverage choices did you purchase the last time you needed something to eat or drink? Was it a green tea or maybe a breakfast smoothie? If so, you might be one of the many Chicago residents who have recently posted online about your experience.

According to a recently released study by CBD Marketing, Millennials, or those between the ages of 18 and 35, have played a key role in changing “long-standing truths” within food and beverage categories. The research analyzed 10.8 million social media posts and other online content specific to food (8.6 million) and beverage (2.2 million) product groups. Frequently used hashtags for food included #healthy, #organic, #naturalfood, and #healthyfood), while #greentea, #healthy, #coffee, and #tea were seen most frequently for beverages.

Even though Millennials are tech savvy and share their thoughts and buying habits frequently and openly, it would be a mistake to treat all Millennials as one group. Millennials consist of three overlapping subgroups whose differences can greatly impact their preferences. Some are college students or living at home, others are out of college and just entering the workforce, and others are buying homes and starting families.

And don’t forget to consider other Chicago demographics when monitoring social media insights. For example, women created 62 percent of the content while men created only 38 percent. The study also found that “Millennial men and women use very different descriptors when talking online, so it’s important to use language that reflects your target audience.” The top terms used more frequently and often by women include love, amazing, good, best, favorite, enjoy, and delicious) while men used good, love, great, enjoy. Men also seemed to express negative options more frequently.

Healthy Food and Beverage Options in Chicago

CBD Marketing’s Co-CEO Lori Colman said it best when she said that “businesses and brands that mine this treasure trove of online data will be the ones that market their products successfully.” In order to learn about your Chicago employees’ food and beverage preferences for the office break room consider the following criteria.

Beverage Preferences

  • Looking for green tea, kombucha and even traditional hot lemon teas
  • Want flavored, sparkling and plain water, “better-for-you” drinks promoting energy, immunity, digestive health
  • Enjoy plant-based milks and cold brew

Food Preferences

  • Like healthy, natural foods; support alternative food distribution via meal delivery and meal services
  • Buy from environmentally conscious manufacturers and purveyors; want transparency
  • Gravitate to cultural flavors and foods like Scandinavian and Indian

How many of these healthy food and beverage choices are available for your employees in the Chicago office break room? If you’d like to add more options or bring some variety to your current vending machine offerings, Mark Vend can help. Contact us at (847) 291-9216 to get started.

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Healthier Vending Machine Beverages in Chicago

Healthy Vending Machine Options in Chicago

Vending machine technology is only one of the many aspects of the vending industry that has changed a lot since the first bottled soft drink machines, cooled with ice, appeared on the market in the 1930’s. Which beverages Chicago consumers want to buy have also undergone several makeovers.

Diet sodas, for example, were first mass produced during the 1960’s and enjoyed a seemingly positive reputation until the early 2000’s when sales started to decline. The shift in opinion began as Chicago consumers learned more about diet soda’s ingredients and understood that those ingredients were actually chemicals that were dangerous to their health.

Today, medical professionals have a better understanding about the downsides of consuming diet soda. Keri Glassman, R.D.N., at Women’s Health shares, “It [diet soda] is filled with unhealthy chemicals, including artificial sweeteners, which actually make[s] you crave more calories later” and contributes to weight gain.  

However, diet soda alone doesn’t cause all weight gain. Cara Harbstreet, R.D., of Street Smart Nutrition says, “Consumers of diet soda who engage in other lifestyle behaviors associated with poor health outcomes are at a greater risk than those who balance their intake of diet soda with other healthful habits.The variables make it difficult to pinpoint whether diet soda consumption alone is the cause of negative health outcomes, or whether it’s the culmination of a number of factors…nothing in nutrition or health exists in a vacuum.”

Healthy Vending Machine Options in Chicago

As 2017 comes to a close, it is important to consider other habits that play a role in developing health-related issues such as not exercising, smoking, consuming too many sweets, and diet or regular soda instead of water, and not sleeping enough. The following are a few health issues that can happen as a result of doing either too much of a bad thing or not enough of a good thing.

  • not exercising enough: increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, high blood pressure, depressions, osteoporosis, bone fractures, and more sick days
  • smoking: higher risk of developing lung cancer, COPD including emphysema and chronic bronchitis, and worsening asthma
  • eating and/or drinking too much sugar: greater risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, heart attack, stroke, cavities, depression, joint pain, and an increase in wrinkles and saggy skin
  • not getting enough water: causes headaches, dry mouth, eyes, and skin, disorientation, low energy levels, muscle cramps or spasms, hunger, and mood swings
  • not getting enough sleep: increased risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure, stroke, obesity, depression, lack of alertness, impaired memory, mood swings, and an increased chance of having a car accident

So, as 2018 is quickly approaching, individuals should focus on exercising, getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, and consuming healthy vending machine snack and beverage choices. But don’t forget to enjoy a special treat every once in awhile.

To help your Chicago employees make healthy choices during the workday, offer a wide variety of healthy snacks and beverages in the office breakroom vending machine. Not only will it positively impact your employees health, but it will also help maintain high energy levels and increase productivity. That’s a win-win for everyone.

For more information about adding healthy options to your current vending machines or creating the ultimate breakroom in 2018, call Mark Vend at (847) 291-9216. We’d love to help.

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Healthy Vending Machine Options in Chicago Can Boost Productivity

Healthy Vending Machine Choices in Chicago

Corporate wellness programs including those that offer healthy vending machine options can have a positive impact on both an employee’s health and on the company’s productivity, but only if the wellness program is implemented carefully.

A recent study by researchers at the University of California, Riverside, UCLA, and Washington University in St. Louis found that wellness program participation “improved average worker productivity by over 4 percent” which is roughly equivalent “to adding one additional day of productive work per month for each employee” (Gubler, Larkin, & Pierce,2017, p. 2). Taken one step further, researchers determined that by using diet and exercise, sick and healthy employees increased their productivity by 10 percent.  

There are, however, several important caveats to consider.

  • Participation must be voluntary. Researchers found that when participation was required or strongly suggested through social or financial pressure, the participants reacted negatively. Participants perceived the company to be overstepping its bounds and interfering in their health and lifestyle choices.
  • Participants must believe in the program’s merits and safety. Highlighting the differences between the reality of the program versus its perceptions will help employees trust that their health data will remain private and will not be used for employment-related purposes.
  • Long-term productivity gains are unlikely to be sustainable through single or short-term interventions. Employers must consider multiple or long-term wellness support for employees if increased productivity is to be sustainable.

Wellness programs or interventions in can occur in many different forms from fitness activities to healthy food choices in the office break room vending machine. The best choices for your specific organization will likely vary from the organization next door. Ask your Chicago employees for their opinions and preferences. To start the conversation, consider a few of the following options.

Fitness

  • encourage public transportation, walking or biking—arrange for bike racks and provide “bike to work” promotional materials
  • encourage stairwell use by strategically placing posters with information about the physical benefits of using stairs
  • offer corporate discounts for health club memberships in the Chicago area or offer an on-site fitness facility
  • coordinate and market running and walking groups and other monthly and weekly fitness challenges

Healthy Vending Machine Choices in Chicago

Corporate Culture

  • Turn sit-down meetings into walking meetings
  • bring in items that will encourage folks to take a break and rejuvenate such as scooters, game rooms, footballs, and hula hoops
  • incorporate plants and other greenery around the office
  • offer a quiet spot to take a nap

Food Choices

  • offer healthy snack, beverage and food choices via vending machines or a micro-market—don’t forget to include non-dairy milk options for those who are vegan or are dairy intolerant
  • offer free or reduced cost refreshments for employees—it’s a great morale booster
  • throw a monthly healthy potluck
  • coordinate with a community supported agriculture (CSA) for local fruit and vegetable deliveries to the office and/or find local farmers markets in Chicago

Whether you are looking to offer Pantry Service, add a new vending machine or create the ultimate break room, Mark Vend can help. We offer a wide variety of products and services that can help boost your employees’ wellness, morale, and productivity. Call us at (847) 291-9216 for more information.   

Reference:

Gubler, T., Larkin, I., and Pierce, L. (2017, June 28). Doing Well by Making Well: The Impact of Corporate Wellness Programs on Employee Productivity. Forthcoming, Management Science. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2811785

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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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