Businesses, schools, and sports centers choose to place a vending machine on their premises to serve their employees, students, and customers. It’s an excellent way to keep them on the premises if they’re hungry or thirsty. Thus, reducing wasted productivity from employees and students while discouraging customers from visiting competitors. Furthermore, it’s also a way to generate extra income for your company. But, keeping the vending machine well-stocked isn’t just a case of buying bulk candy and hoping for the best. Instead, you must carefully select a cross-section of popular products from vending machine food suppliers and maintain the stock levels as your customers’ preferences change.
But is it worth your time and effort? According to IBISWorld, the market size of vending machine operators in the US in 2021 is $8.6 billion. Furthermore, they also reckon the industry has a market growth of 5.4%. So, if these figures are anything to go by, you should do reasonably well from your vending machine as an additional form of income for your company.
Also see: Best vending machine locations (placement guide)
Most popular vending machine snacks and drinks:
As we’ve already said, you must wisely choose the vending machine foods and beverages. This policy maintains a good turnover of stock in your machine, thus keeping the items fresh and reducing wastage.
Here is a quick overview of our top item list for vending machines. We’ll talk about each of these snack foods and beverages in more detail later on.
Top vending machine snacks include the following:
- Clif Bars.
- Granola Bars.
- Lays Potato Chips.
- Planters Peanuts.
- Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
- Snickers Bar.
Some of the top drinks for vending machines include:
- Cold Coffee.
- Diet Soda.
- Energy drinks.
- Iced Tea.
- Vitamin Water.
- Water bottles.
Vending Machine Snacks
If you intend to install a vending machine, it’s essential to keep it stocked with various popular snacks. Furthermore, you have to watch how each product sells to keep the most profitable snacks and replace those items that people don’t like. Moreover, many of your employees will use the snack vending machine as a substitute for buying lunch or bringing their own. Therefore, don’t just stock candies and chocolate. Instead, maintain a supply of healthy and savory snacks too.
Healthy vending machine snacks made up 7.6% of snack sales from US vending machines during 2018, and the preference for nutritional snacks rises every year. But, as many people make lifestyle changes and look after their health, don’t forget vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, and nut-free snacks.
In 2021, YouGov America surveyed various demographics to find the most popular snack food brands. However, as you’d expect, many popular snacks didn’t make it into their list of top brands. Therefore, the following list shows a mixture of YouGov America’s recommended items and other popular snack foods. We haven’t put the list in any particular order as the snack food’s popularity depends on a person’s preference.
Don’t forget that some people don’t like healthy muesli-type snacks. They would instead prefer to find a cracker such as this in the vending machine. Probably, Cheez-its are so popular because you can buy them in 1.5 oz bags, making them ideal for vending machines. Plus, almost everyone remembers them from their childhood, so it’s something familiar among the plethora of new gimmicky snack foods available in food stores and vending machines.
2. Clif Bars
Clif bars are another popular addition to your vending machine. This energy bar is great for breakfast at the desk, a midday snack, or at any time of the day. The ingredients provide all the nutrients a body needs to keep going through a busy working day. Moreover, most of the flavors are vegan, and those that aren’t (Traditional Clif and Whey Protein Bars) contain honey and dairy, respectively. For those people who like their healthy food to taste a bit naughty, other flavors include:
- Crunchy Peanut Butter.
- White Chocolate Macadamia Nut.
- Chocolate Brownie.
- Chocolate Chip.
- And more.
This item is one of the savory corn chip snacks. Just about everyone enjoys Doritos, and the brand has been popular in the US since the 1960s. Furthermore, they’re an excellent addition to a sandwich or as a standalone snack. What’s more, you can buy them in various flavors such as:
- Nacho cheese.
- Cool ranch.
- Sweet chili.
- Any many more.
There are so many flavors; it’s a good idea to poll your employees to find out what the majority prefer before stocking your vending machine. The YouGov America survey places this brand’s popularity at 75%.
4. Granola Bars
Granola bars are another popular addition to your office vending machine. They are nutritious when you compare them to some other vending machine snacks, and they can be eaten as breakfast, lunch, or just as a snack. Many people like them because they offer a healthy alternative to other snack foods. In contrast, others prefer them because they taste great. Granola Bars come in many varieties, such as:
- Kind Bars.
- Chewy Bars.
- Nature’s Valley.
The popular KitKat chocolate candy bar has been around since 1935, and it’s been a delicious snack food since then. The tasty blend of crispy wafer and chocolate is guaranteed to satisfy hunger pangs with the mid-morning cup of coffee. Put some KitKats in your vending machine, and you’ll find they sell out in almost no time at all. The YouGov America survey places this brand’s popularity at 78%.
6. Lays Potato Chips
It’s okay to choose from the many brands of available corn snacks. But, you can’t beat a good old-fashioned bag of potato chips, and Lays Chips are an ideal addition to your vending machine. They are one of the most popular brands on the market, and the YouGovAmerica survey puts their popularity at 78%. So, your employees will always come back for more.
Most people have heard of M&Ms, but did you know that they are also one of the top vending machine snacks in the US? The brand’s popularity is mainly due to its convenient size bags, various colors, and tastes. With flavors ranging from cheesecake to fruit to peanut. As an example, here are some of the brand’s popular flavors:
- White cheesecake.
- Strawberry nut.
- Double chocolate.
- Coffee nut.
- And many more.
But probably the best reason to like M&Ms is that people can share with their friends.
8. Planters Peanuts
Planters are another savory snack that has retained its popularity over the years. This best-selling snack has been on sale since 1906. Throughout this time, the company has defined just the right degree of saltiness to make this a satisfying product you can put in your vending machine without employees having continual trips to the water cooler. But, it’s not just saltiness that people crave; they also deliver a much-needed dose of protein for those who prefer some healthy ingredients too. YouGov America puts the brand’s popularity at 77%.
Pop-Tarts are a convenient breakfast substitute you can eat just about anywhere, especially if you have access to a microwave oven or toaster, which most office kitchens have. That’s why many office vending machines include these among their stock. Their popularity is probably down to the various flavors you can buy. Typically, Brown Sugar Cinnamon, Hot Fudge Sundae, many types of jam, plus Frosted Strawberry, and of course many more favorites.
10. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups scored 81% in YouGov’s popularity survey. So, you’re probably already a fan of this snack food brand. Put these in your vending machine, and you will bring back the childhood in everyone.
11. Snickers Bar
Snickers is one of the top brand snacks for US vending machines. These are ideal for people who crave a sweet mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack. And according to NBC News, Snickers was the most popular chocolate candy bar in the US in 2012, with gross sales of over 400 million totaling more than $424 million in that year. In 2021 YouGov America placed this brand’s popularity at 78%.
Vending Machine Drinks
Don’t forget beverages when you choose the vending machines for your business premises. It’s not only employees that like a mid-morning drink while at work. In general, customers and visitors also appreciate refreshments, especially before a business meeting or while waiting for their car to have its latest oil change.
You can offer a beverage such as coffee, tea, or cocoa, as a free courtesy to your customers. Alternatively, you could charge them for these staple beverages, cans of soda, or bottles of water. Beverage vending machines are one of the industry’s most profitable categories, providing up to 31% of all the purchases made from the machines.
When you choose the beverages and cans of soda you intend to place in your machine, spare a thought for the amount of caffeine included in these products, especially if the vending machine is at a school, kids center, sports facility, and many other venues. Coffee isn’t the only product that contains caffeine. Some types of tea, various cola brands, and many energy drinks include vast amounts of caffeine and sugar, and you should be aware of this. According to the Mayo Clinic, healthy adults should consume no more than 400mg of caffeine every day. That’s the equivalent of ten cans of soda drink, two energy drinks, or 4 cups of coffee. In comparison, children shouldn’t consume more than 100mg of caffeine. That’s a quarter of the adult dose.
Instead, it’s a good idea to stock fruit juices, rehydration drinks, carbonated water, and still water in addition to other beverages.
Let’s consider the various type of drinks suitable for vending machines.
1. Cold Coffee
By far, the majority of people in the workplace drink coffee as the beverage of choice. Usually, people take their coffee piping hot. However, as an alternative, it makes a pleasant change to offer cold flavored coffee or iced coffee from your vending machine. Whether you stock hot coffee or cold, there are many popular flavors and types to choose from. For example:
- Freshly brewed.
- And many more.
2. Diet Soda
Remember that not everyone likes the massive amounts of sugar in traditional soda. Therefore, you should stock some low-sugar versions. Although a Gallup poll found that most Americans prefer full-sugar soda, more women, the elderly, and a growing percentage of men now prefer diet soda.
It makes sense to stock diet soda in vending machines placed in schools, colleges, and gyms. But, many businesses now insist on allowing only diet soda in their machines. The policy helps to keep their employees healthy. Therefore, it’s a good idea to incorporate popular brands like Diet Coke and Pepsi as the low-calorie option in your drinks machine and analyze the sales of each type before adding more.
3. Energy drinks
Not only is it trendy to choose an energy drink, but also many people find they need a boost mid-morning or mid-afternoon to get them through the rest of the day. That’s why energy drinks are so popular when your business has a vending machine for its employees. Not everyone appreciates the flavor of coffee, but they still need caffeine to get them through the day. Typically, you’ll find that most people have heard of Monster or Red Bull, and these are the brands to stock. Alternatively, there are also healthier energy drinks available if you prefer those. Brands such as Yerba mate are herbal teas containing caffeine and reputed to relieve fatigue and other conditions.
A note of warning here. Enjoy energy drinks of any type in moderation, as too many can adversely affect your health. If people drink these regularly or in excess, they should speak to their physician. Some kinds of energy drinks, and especially herbal teas, might react unfavorably with prescribed medication.
Gatorade enjoys great popularity as a sports drink for vending machines. It replenishes a person’s body electrolytes and is a superb re-hydrating agent. Moreover, many people expect to see it in a drinks machine, so take care to stock a few different flavors. These can include:
- Fruit Punch.
- And many more.
You can also add Gatorade Zero, a healthy, low-calorie version of the sports beverage if your employees and visitors enjoy a healthy option.
5. Iced Tea
Not everyone enjoys sweet carbonated soda. Even if served ice cold, soda isn’t particularly thirst-quenching. Often, if you are looking for a popular thirst quencher, you can’t beat one of the many types of iced tea available from vending machines. Typically, you can offer unsweetened tea, sweet tea, and green tea. And the brands you can choose from include
- Lipton Tea.
- Gold Peak Tea.
Lemonade is a simple carbonated beverage we all remember from our childhood. It’s refreshing and readily kept in your vending machine. Moreover, you can choose from many flavors and decide which beverages to stock in your workplace. Popular flavors include:
- Sweetened lemonade.
- Diet lemonade.
- Raspberry lemonade.
- Pink lemonade.
Typically, you’ll find the following brands sold from vending machines include:
- Minute Maid.
- Simply Lemonade.
Carbonated water or Seltzer is a trendy drink, and more people choose Seltzer every day as an effective vending machine thirst quencher with no calories. Alternatively, many brands have realized how popular this beverage is and have started to market flavored Seltzers. Typically, you can stock Seltzers from the following brands:
- La Croix.
This is what most people imagine when they think of vending machine drinks. Therefore, they expect to have carbonated soda available. But which ones should you stock? There are many popular options you can choose from, and it’s up to you to decide.
Start with a selection of the old favorites such as:
- Coca Cola.
- Pepsi Cola.
- Dr. Pepper.
You also have a choice of supplying the sodas in cans or plastic bottles. But, whichever one you choose, don’t forget to provide a suitable recycling bin next to the vending machine.
9. Vitamin Water
Sports drinks are different from energy drinks and don’t usually contain caffeine or sugar. Instead, they are flavored water containing vitamins and electrolytes to keep you hydrated during the day. Vitamin water is one of these sports drinks and makes a pleasant change from soda and other sugary beverages. You’ll find these very popular if you place a vending machine in a gym or sports center.
10. Water bottles
You should understand that people must stay hydrated during the working day or their performance drops. Even though drinking water is available for free from many places, some people might want to carry around a water bottle. Also, many people prefer to drink from a sealed water bottle rather than from a faucet, even if it’s labeled “drinking water” and probably is safe to drink.
Many water suppliers provide vending machine-sized bottles. These include popular names such as Aquafina and Evian. Therefore, it should be no problem keeping a few brands in stock. However, it’s a good idea to offer water to employees free of charge without using a vending machine. Therefore, consider subscribing to a water service and install at least one water cooler.
When you agree to have a vending machine on your premises, you aren’t only providing a service to your employees, customers, or visitors. You also need to earn enough from the machine to pay its rent and the electricity bills. Therefore, you must decide on the best products to stock. The most popular vending snacks and drinks aren’t only those that you personally enjoy. Instead, you must cater to a cross-section of people and stock those items that most people will buy.
Complete the form on this page, and you’ll receive up to four quotes from companies that specialize in vending machine products. They can advise you on the best items to stock.