The evolution of snacking

Are you worried you’re not eating healthily enough? As one of the UK’s largest vending companies, we’re very interested in what people are buying from our machines. That’s why we’ve put together this new article looking at recent vending trends in more detail.

Data like this helps us get a better picture of what our customers are enjoying, while helping customers make informed choices about their drink and snack choices. It might also shine a light on some drink and snack options you hadn’t considered before.

Articles like this one form part of our Evolution of Snacking campaign, which is helping customers shift to healthier snack choices.

How we gathered our data

To better understand today’s vending trends, we looked at more than 900 of our vending machines across the UK. We compared the products sold in them during the first half of 2018 with the first half of 2019. Our investigation covered vending machines in a variety of different places (like schools and offices) across the UK.

What are the most popular drinks?

We sell high-sugar drinks, CQUIN-compliant drinks and ZERO-sugar drinks in our vending machines. CQUIN-compliant drinks are NHS-approved, and contain fewer than 5g of sugar per 100ml. You can learn more about what CQUIN means in practice by visiting this page.

We discovered that on a national level, ZERO-sugar canned drinks are this year’s most popular drink choice. When we compared this year’s ZERO-sugar sales figures to last year’s, we saw a 38.2% increase in sales.

On the other hand, high-sugar bottles have seen the biggest drop. Sales of these drinks were down by 19.8% when compared to the same timespan last year.

vending drink trend stats

What are the most popular snacks?

Overall, we saw an increase in snack sales of 16% year-on-year. We divide our snacks into three broad categories—high sugar snacks, low-calorie snacks (known as CQUIN-compliant snacks in healthcare circles) and transition snacks (which are in between the other two).

Transition snacks saw the biggest year-on-year increase (35.7%) followed by high-sugar choices (22.4%). However, low-calorie snacks are actually the most popular snack in 2019. We sold 169% more low-calorie snacks than the other choices we offer.

When people buy high-sugar snacks, they tend to buy snack bars rather than snack bags. We recorded an overall increase in snack bar purchases of 20.1%. Within this, sales of high sugar snack bars increased by 10.8%. Transition snack bar sales increased by 41.6%, and low-calorie snack bars increased by 20.7%.

vending snack trends 2018-2019

Education trends

Unlike the general public, students (whether they’re at secondary school, college or university) like CQUIN-compliant drinks the best. These make up 46% of our drink sales to students.

Students are also big fans of CQUIN-compliant snacks. Though we’ve recorded increases in sales of transition snacks (48.2%) and high-sugar snacks (19.9%) CQUIN-compliant snacks are still students’ favourite by a big margin.

When it comes to choosing between transition snack bars and transition snack bags, most students prefer bars. We’ve seen an increase in transition snack bar sales of 69% year-on-year.

While students are still enjoying sugary treats, on the whole they are leading the way in healthier snack choices by choosing more CQUIN-compliant products.

Industry trends

CQUIN-compliant and high-sugar drinks are very popular in the industry sector. Here, we recorded CQUIN sales increases of 48.2%, and high-sugar sales increases of 49.6%. Sales of ZERO-sugar drinks also increased, but only by 2.2%.

Like the general public, the industry sector is also buying more transition snacks. However, transition snack bags are the most popular choice here; other groups like transition bars better.

We recorded a 61.1% increase in sales of transition snack bags within the industry sector. This is much higher than nationwide sales of transition snack bags. which saw a 29.5% sales increase. The high increase within the industry sector might be down to a wider variety of flavours in our machines.

All this suggests that industry vending customers are making more health-conscious choices. At the same time, they’re still enjoying high-sugar products as a treat.

Hospital and healthcare trends

Unlike other places, hospitals and other healthcare facilities now have strict rules about what vending machines can sell. This means they only have CQUIN-compliant drinks, which are both low-sugar and NHS-approved.

As you might expect, the snacking habits in these places are healthier as a result. We recorded a sharp increase (31.1%) in sales of ZERO-sugar drinks, and a dramatic drop (40.6%) in sales of high-sugar drinks.

CQUIN-compliant snacks are also doing well; we’ve sold 18.7% more of them this year. Snack bars remain the most popular snack type, though high-sugar snack bars are now completely gone from healthcare vending machines.

Office trends

ZERO-sugar drinks are the most popular drink option in offices this year. 2019 saw a 30.3% increase in ZERO-sugar drink sales; cans were slightly more popular than bottles.

We haven’t seen much movement in sales of other drink types. CQUIN-compliant drinks have seen a slight drop in sales, while high-sugar drinks (especially cans) have seen a slight increase.

As a rule, high sugar snack bags are the office professional’s favourite. We’ve recorded a year-on-year increase in high sugar snack sales of 18% in 2019. Within that, however, high-sugar snack bars have seen a slight decrease in sales.

At the same time, transition snacks are growing in popularity; 2019 has seen a 26.2% increase in their sales. CQUIN and transition snack bars have actually seen the biggest sales increases overall.

vending snack and drink trends 2018-2019

Make your best choices

By looking at vending trends—and how they’re changing—we hope our customers can eat and drink more healthily going forward. Our new pop-up vending machine can help with this; each one has sugar-free drinks and snacks under 150 calories. They’re also fully CQUIN-compliant, without coming at the cost of taste.

If you’re thinking about adding a vending machine to your own workplace, we’re happy to help. We’ve got coffee machines, vending machines and water dispensers available, along with in-depth understanding of today’s vending trends. This means we can find you the right machine for you, fill it with the perfect products, and make sure it meets the right regulations.

Get in touch with us now by filling out our enquiry form. We can’t wait to hear from you!