Category Archives: Vending

How Well Do You Know Your Coffee?

Coffee 101

How Well Do You Know Your Coffee?

Columbian Arabica. Sumatra Dark Roast. Blond French Vanilla. The names of coffees can be mighty confusing, and that’s before you even get to the brewing! If you’ve ever wondered what all those coffee terms mean, here’s your coffee primer.

What is Coffee? The coffee we drink comes from the beans—or seeds—of the coffee cherry. Since coffee trees grow best in cool temperatures but rich, tropical soil, most coffee comes from the mountains of regions in the “bean belt,” which stretches roughly from the Tropic of Cancer to the Tropic of Capricorn. Coffee farmers and producers harvest the coffee cherries, strip the fruit, and dry the seeds. The product is now “green coffee,” which coffee roasters buy as a commodity.

Species of Beans: There are actually only two varieties of coffee bean: arabica and robusta. Arabica beans, which have lower acidity and a more delicate flavor, are far more common: If you’re brewing coffee at home or ordering it at a high-end café, it almost certainly came from arabica beans.

Arabica beans must be grown at higher elevations and lower temperatures, and are also more labor-intensive to grow. Robusta, on the other hand, has a stronger, more acidic flavor and also has more caffeine. It can be grown at lower elevations and is sold at a lower price. You are more likely to find robusta beans in instant coffee or other lower-cost products.

Geographical Origin:  Among arabica beans, there are hundreds of unique origins relating both to geographic region and bean processing. Broadly, the main coffee-producing regions are South and Central America, Southeast Asia, and Africa and the Middle East. South and Central America’s coffees tend to be mild and medium-bodied, making them popular in the United States. Colombia’s mountainous terrain, in particular, makes it one of the world’s foremost coffee producers.  African and Indonesian coffees, on the other hand, tend to be fuller-bodied, with earthier flavors.

Roasting: Green coffee beans need to go through one more important step before they can be brewed and consumed: roasting. Roasting involves cooking the beans at a low temperature to reduce acidity and release sugars. Roasted beans can range from light brown to almost black in color, depending on the length and temperature of roasting.

Light roast coffees are known by names like Blond Roast or New England Style. Contrary to popular belief, lighter roasts actually have higher acidity than darker roasts, since roasting removes acids from the beans. Lighter roasts also have more caffeine, and because there’s less roasting flavor, they give a clearer taste of the green bean profile.

Medium roasts, which are most common in the United States, have names like Breakfast Blend, Full City, or Regular Roast. If you order a coffee in a restaurant, you will probably get a medium roast. Dark roast beans appear very dark brown and shiny, as the roasting process has released more of the oils from the seed. These coffees, with names like French Roast, Viennese Coffee, and Espresso have a sweet, caramelized flavor—sometimes with a burnt taste as well.

Stay tuned for Coffee 102, where we’ll discuss flavor additives, brewing styles, and more.

Operations Focus: Cold Chain Logistics

Unlike trendy superfoods (chia, seaweed, or coconut water, anyone?), the movement toward increased consumption of fresh food—and rejection of packaged, processed products—looks like it’s here to stay. As we’ve been reporting for the past three years, millennials (people born between 1980 and 2000) are the primary drivers of this shift toward fresh, but people across generations and cultures are jumping on this wagon. This greater emphasis on freshness is evident in fast food chains, grocery stores, and workplaces, especially those with micro markets like USConnect’s Bistro To Go!®.

Cold chain logistics

The increased demand for fresh food has far-reaching implications for foodservice operations. The logistics of transporting and stocking fresh food is much more complicated than that of packaged foods with shorter shelf lives. This handy chart shows the shelf life of many common foods; note that while some fresh foods, like cheese, yogurt, and apples, can last up to a month in a refrigerator, other common workplace meals like lunch meat last only a week.

With the high perishability of many fresh food items, optimized cold chain logistics are of the utmost importance. “Cold chain logistics” entails the packing, storage, and transportation of temperature-sensitive products along a temperature-controlled supply chain. One logistics expert notes: “The cold chain is thus a science, a technology, and a process. It is a science since it requires the understanding of the chemical and biological processes linked with perishability. It is a technology since it relies on physical means to insure appropriate temperature conditions along the supply chain. It is a process since a series of tasks must be performed to prepare, store, transport and monitor temperature sensitive products.”

To offer consumers longer shelf lives for their fresh foods, transportation speed is of the essence, and storage time needs to be minimal. This is creating a “paradigm shift” in the logistics business, with providers changing their business models to meet consumer demand. “Reefers”(refrigerated trucks) are becoming more and more common; the next one you see may be delivering your next fresh meal, so let it through!

 

 

Micro Markets: Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know, but Were Afraid to Ask

Micro markets are all the rage in the vending industry. They take up an increasing share of vending revenue and are responsible for much of the vending industry’s success in 2015. But have you ever wondered what, exactly, a micro market is?

all about micro markets

Industry group Vending How describes a micro market as “a small, self-contained store in a location without an employee to monitor it.”  It’s comprised of freestanding storage, such as shelves, that hold a product and a checkout system installed nearby. Micro markets offer more choice than traditional vending machines, particularly in the realm of fresh food. However, unlike an actual convenience store, they don’t need to be staffed, and they have a much smaller footprint, making them very cost-efficient.

The National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA) cautions that while it’s fine to emphasize the convenience of micro markets, operators should refrain from comparing them to convenience stores. Full-service convenience stores tend to offer a larger variety of choices, but they are often limited in terms of offering local choices. Micro markets can capitalize on their small size by buying from local and regional food producers.

As we’ve discussed, three of the biggest trends in foodservice are fresh, local, and convenient. Micro markets can respond to all three of these trends with more agility than any fast-food restaurant or convenience store. USConnect’s Bistro To Go!® micro markets and The Right Choice … for a Healthier You program combine convenience, freshness, and health all in one place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s ‘Appening with the USConnectMe App?

2016 brings great news for smartphone users (and really, in 2016, who isn’t a smartphone user?): the USConnectMe app is here! The new app is applicable to employees with access to USConnect-enabled smart vending machines, Bistro to Go! Self-checkout kiosks, and approved food service terminals.USConnectMe app is live

Available for free from the Apple Store and Google Play Store, the app provides a host of benefits, allowing USConnectMe users to

  • Redeem exclusive promotions.
  • Earn and redeem reward points.
  • Conveniently make purchases.
  • Review The Right Choice for a Healthier You® options.
  • Access The Right Choice for a Healthier You® videos.
  • Directly support a charity of their choice (1.5% of each purchase goes to charity).
  • Check their USConnectMe account balance.
  • Add funds to their USConnectMe account.
  • View detailed transaction history.
  • Review and edit account profiles.

USConnectMe is USConnect’s innovative loyalty and rewards program, offered in conjunction with its nationwide cashless payment system. Previously accessible only through a card, the new USConnectMe app offers unprecedented convenience and customization. And until January 31, 2016, new users will be entered in a drawing to win an Apple Watch. Existing users who spend $100 in January 2016 will also be entered to win.

 

Summer Vending Tips and Trends

Summer is here, and the living is easy… or at least, easier. How does summer affect the vending industry? Read on for ways to maximize the benefits of summer and avoid some of its pitfalls. summer-vending-tips-trends

Health takes a front seat. This is an overall trend that accelerates in summer. People want to show off their “beach bodies,” so they’re more likely to try to eat healthily when possible. Warmer weather also means that a crisp, cool salad or wrap sandwich is more appealing than the warmer, heavier fare that people crave when the weather turns cold.

Keep it fresh. Again, the emphasis on freshness is a long-term trend that gains momentum in the summer when more fresh foods are available throughout the country. Kiosks like our Bistro To Go™ offer a wide range of fresh foods that see increased sales when the temperature rises. But be careful; when offering fresh food, it’s crucial to keep it fresh! A wilted salad or slightly-off hard-boiled egg can reduce consumer confidence and may chase them away forever. During the summer, when people travel a lot, make sure that fresh choices stay fresh.

Help people stay hydrated. Cold drink sales tend to rise in the summer as the mercury rises. And again, with the emphasis on health, many vending machine operators are moving away from sugary drinks and toward healthier options. Increasingly, people are willing to pay premium prices for high-end items like kombucha, green tea beverages, and smoothies, especially if they contain trendy health ingredients like chia, kale, or antioxidants.

We all scream for ice cream! Some companies are stocking freezer vending machines with frozen treats like old-fashioned ice cream bars and ice pops. And although this might seem to buck the health trend, there are lots of healthy options like frozen fruit bars and frozen Greek yogurt.

Vending Machines Offer Built-In Portion Control

It used to be that vending machines were the place where healthy diets went to die. They offered limited choices and almost no options for the health-conscious eater;  salt, fat, andvending machines can help with portion control sugar contents were off the charts. But in the past decade, a sea change has engulfed the vending industry. Most vending machines offer a wider        variety of choices, with many more healthy  options than were once available.

And there’s more good news; if you’re     going to buy junk food, buying it from a vending machine may actually be a healthier choice! That’s because vending           machine offerings have built-in portion control that you won’t find at a convenience store or supermarket.

Potato chips and other salty snacks, for instance, are some of the worst culprits for  provoking overeating. If you buy a bag of chips at a convenience store, it’s likely to be 10 to 13 ounces; that’s 10 to 13 servings!  And most people, despite their best intentions, have trouble limiting  themselves to only one serving when they have the whole bag     sitting in front of them.

Most vending machine bags of chips are only one ounce: the exact amount of a recommended serving! When you just must have that salty crunch of your favorite snack chip, isn’t it better to have your portion already measured out? The same principle works for other foods as well.  At many convenience and grocery stores now, it can be hard to find the “regular” sized candy bars in the midst of all the king-sized ones, but most vending machine candy bars are standard size.  And nuts, which are a very healthy snack in moderation (see Nuts to You!), can add up to extra fat quickly. But with a portion-controlled serving, it’s easier to eat the right amount of this heart-healthy snack.

Of course, US Connect’s Bistro To Go™ kiosks take healthy convenience to a whole new level. However, when you want to get a little junky at the vending machine, remember to use the built-in portion control. When in doubt, check out this handy wallet card from the National Institutes of Health; it will remind you of appropriate serving sizes.

 

#TBT: A History of Vending

The History of Vending Machines

How far back in history do you think the vending machine goes? The industrial revolution, maybe? You might be surprised to learn that the first vending machine goes all the way back to ancient Egypt, where the Alexandrian mathematician Hero invented a coin-operated machine to dispense holy water in the year 215 BC. The Chinese got into the act
in the 11th century with coin-operated pencil vendors.a history of vending machines

However, the industrial revolution did indeed spur the growth of vending machines as we know them today. By the 19th century, vending machines started popping up all over England, selling tobacco, stamps, and even banned literature. The first vending machines in the United States were owned by the Thomas Adams Gum Company, which used them to sell Tutti-Frutti gumballs on subway platforms in New York. Gumball machines soon appeared in stores around the country.

In the early 20th century, the German automat model began to be used in the United States, thanks to Joseph Horn and German-born Frank Hardart. Horn & Hardart automats became an American institution, attracting customers from all walks of life. For a nickel per item, diners could build their own meal from a diverse array of fresh, tempting items. Horn and Hardart established uniformity for their recipes and worked from a centralized commissary system; in many ways, these popular eateries were the precursor of our own Bistro To Go™!

In 1946, the first coffee vendors changed the way working Americans consumed coffee; soon the coffee break became part of the American work day. In 1950, workers could buy sandwiches from vending machines—making lunch on-the-go much easier. In 1965, vending machines started accepting dollar bills, and people no longer needed a pocket full of change to get what they wanted.

Now, millennia after Hero’s first “vending machine,” the machine has evolved far, far beyond a simple coin-for-water system. Our vending machines and Bistro To Go™ kiosks are stocked with fresh, nutritious food that you can pay for with a credit card or even with cloud-based systems like Apple Pay. Thanks to USConnect, dining at work is more convenient than ever! What will the next technologies bring?

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Right Choice… for a Healthier You™

Eating the right foods can have a dramatic impact on your health, well-being and productivity. That’s why USConnect has developed a nutritional guidelines program emphasizing sensible nutrition choices, education, and a healthy, active lifestyle.

These guidelines follow the recommendations of a number of leading medical health agencies for the prevention of chronic illnesses including heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and hypertension. Managed by our staff dietician, The Right Choice … for a Healthier You™ program offers per-serving nutritional guidelines for fresh food products sporting the apple heart logo. Each product’s nutritional information can be viewed on the vending machine′s touch screen before purchase.

Nutrition Facts

From fresh food vending selections, like chef salads, deli-style subs, and artisan sandwiches to healthy snacks like nuts, popcorn, and dried fruits, USConnect’s vending machines and Bistro To Go! offer a wide range of healthy choices. And if you want that occasional candy bar or soft drink, you can still indulge while keeping track of your calories using the touch screen to view the food’s nutritional information.

Healthy food selections encouraged by The Right Choice … for a Healthier You program are conveniently accessible through the USConnectMe card, an advanced rechargeable cashless payment system that earns employees loyalty rewards, and lets employees decide which charity in your community their purchases will help support. The USConnect Me card also gives you coupon-free, no-hassle monthly promotions and loyalty earnings available for tracking online or via email.

Learn more or see monthly promotions at www.usconnectme.com.

Cantaloupe Systems Enables Apple Pay Acceptance on All Seed Cashless™ Installations

Cantaloupe Systems, the vending industry’s premier provider of cloud-based, mobile technologies and a strategic supplier of USConnect, recently announced support for   Apple Pay, the new contactless payment capability of Apple’s iPhone 6 smartphones.

Apple Pay will be supported by all machines running Seed Cashless™, the fastest growing card and mobile payments solution for vending. Accepting Apple Pay will require no hardware upgrade and no additional cost to vending operators utilizing Seed Cashless.

Apple Pay uses Near-Field Communication (NFC) technology to communicate securely with the Seed Cashless card reader. Leading Android mobile payment apps like Google Wallet and Softcard® also use NFC. Seed Cashless has always included NFC capability in every card reader, and Seed Cashless cloud services are optimized for mobile transactions. This means that Seed Cashless operators don’t have to worry about expensive upgrades to enable mobile payments. Instead, mobile payments will just work on Seed Cashless.

Apple Pay

Although Seed Cashless supports a wide range of mobile payment options, Seed Cashless also accepts traditional magnetic stripe credit or debit cards. This flexibility ensures that consumers can gradually migrate from plastic to mobile at their own pace, and ensures that operators capture the maximum possible cashless sales during the gradual transition from card to mobile payments.

To use Apple Pay, consumers will need an iPhone 6 device with the software update that Apple released in October 2014. Cantaloupe Systems expects operators to see significant payment volume from Apple Pay starting with the 2014 holiday season.

New Specials Using Your USConnect Card

Take advantage of these great deals by using your USConnect OneCard on any of these products now through January 1, 2015.

Quinch your thirst

  • Buy 4 Gatorade 20 oz. bottles (any flavor) and get the 5th one free.
  • Buy 4 Lipton Tea 20 oz. bottles (any flavor) and get the 5th one free.
  • Buy 4 Mt. Dew Kickstart cans and get the 5th one free.
  • Buy 4 Starbucks Iced Coffee cans and get the 5th one free.
  • Buy 4 regular 7UP, A&W, or Sunkist 20 oz. bottles (mix and match) and get the 5th one free.
  • Buy 4 Dr Pepper 20 oz. bottles (any variety) and get the 5th one free.
  • Buy 4 Snapple bottle beverages and get the 5th one free.
  • Buy 4 Crystal Light On The Go Sticks (any flavors) and get the 5th one free.
  • Buy an Aquafina 20 oz. bottle and a Sun Chips LSS together and save $0.50.
  • Buy 2 Red Bull cans and save $1.

Satisfy that sweet tooth

  • Buy 4 M&M Peanut singles and get the 5th one free.M&M's- New Specials
  • Buy 4 Twix singles and get the 5th one free.
  • Buy 4 Mars Bites (3 Musketeers, Snickers, or Milkyway) and get the 5th one free.
  • Buy any 4 Dove Chocolate Bar singles and get the 5th one free.
  • Buy 4 Welch’s Fruit Snacks single serve (any variety) and get the 5th one free.
  • Buy 4 Gummi Factory Bears or Worms single serve (mix and match) and get the 5th one free.
  • Buy 4 Nutri Grain bars and get the 5th one free.
  • Buy 4 Chips Ahoy single serve sleeve or bag cookies and get the 5th one free.
  • Buy 4 Swedish Fish or Sour Patch Kids (2 oz. size, mix and match) and get the 5th one free.
  • Buy 4 Nature Valley Oats & Honey or Peanut Butter Granola Bars and get the 5th one free.
  • Buy 4 Chex Mix Muddy Buddies 1.75 oz. and get the 5th one free.
  • Buy 4 Mrs. Freshley’s Jumbo Honey Buns and get the 5th one free.
  • Buy 4 Mrs. Freshley’s Chocolate Cupcakes and get the 5th one free.
  • Buy 4 Wonka Chewy Spree or Mini Chewy Sweetarts singles and get the 5th one free
  • Buy 4 Nestle Candy Miniatures bags (mix and match) and get the 5th one free.

Grab a quick snack

  • Buy 4 Doritos Nacho LSS and get the 5th one free.
  • Buy 4 Rold Gold Pretzels LSS and get the 5th one free.
  • Buy 4 Baked Cheetos LSS and get the 5th one free.
  • Buy 4 Combos single-serve (any flavor) and get the 5th one free.
  • Buy 4 Cheez-it’s Single Serve or LSS and get the 5th one free.
  • Buy 4 Pringles cans (any size) and get the 5th one free.
  • Buy 4 Kraft String Cheese singles and get the 5th one free.

Make it a meal

  • Buy 4 Hot Pockets and get the 5th one free.
  • Buy any 4 Stouffer or Lean Cuisine meals and get the 5th one free.
  • Buy 4 Pierre Sandwiches (any flavors) and get the 5th one free.

With your USConnect OneCard, you earn points on each purchase. Cardholders earn 5 reward points for every dollar spent. Redeem those points online for cash back on your account.

Remember, your rewards also give back. At participating locations, 1.5% of every
dollar spent on your OneCard goes to the charity of your choice. Now that’s truly
rewarding!

For full terms and conditions, www.usconnectme.com/promotions.