Tag 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.

Is BPA-Free the Way to Be?

Look at any food packaging, especially in the foodservice industry, and you’re likely to see a lot of plastic. There are many good reasons for the prevalence of plastics; plastics carry bpa-freemuch less weight than aluminum or glass, and plastic packaging can prevent up to 1.7 pounds of food waste for each pound of plastics.

However, plastic packaging brings some significant chemical impacts.  Among these, some of the most troubling come from a class of chemicals known as endocrine disruptors which influence the endocrine system and alter hormonal functions. Cheap, lightweight, and shatterproof, Bisphenol A (BPA) used to be one of the most commonly used plastics for food packaging, appearing in everything from plastic pouches to water bottles to the linings of some canned food. Unfortunately, BPA is one of these endocrine-disrupting chemicals; in 2008, the National Toxicology Program Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction found that there is “some concern for effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures to bisphenol A.”

The US Food and Drug Administration still classifies BPA as safe at its current human exposure level. Nonetheless, pressure from consumers and consumer protection groups has spurred food storage companies to drastically reduce their use of the chemical. This is particularly true for products aimed at infants and young children, like infant formula packaging, baby bottles, and toddler sippy cups, but even many general use products now carry the label “BPA-Free.” In the foodservice industry, both Rubbermaid and Cambro offer BPA-free options.

Unfortunately, just replacing BPA does not appear to have solved the problem of endocrine-disrupting chemicals leaching into food. Scientists currently focus on chemicals having estrogenic activity—activity that mimics, increases, or decreases the body’s naturally-occurring estrogen with synthetic hormones. So while eliminating BPA is a good start and can help raise employee awareness of the dangers of chemical contamination, it is not a panacea. Study after study shows that most plastic products leach estrogenic chemicals into the food and drinks we consume.

Some simple steps can further reduce risks, both for foodservice companies and the customers they serve. Keeping plastics away from heat—boiling water, microwaves, and sunlight—is crucial, as heat accelerates the leaching process. In foodservice kitchens, make sure to heat food only in glass or metal containers, and in office kitchens, offer alternatives for employees to heat their own food. Keep bottled water out of hot cars and sunlight, and educate employees about the potential dangers of keeping food or liquid in plastic for too long.  As always, knowledge is power!



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!



Logistics Focus: Sustainable Transportation

When you bite into your sandwich at lunch today, ask yourself: “How far did this food have to travel to get to my desk?” With today’s global logistics, the answer could be more complex than you might think, with some types of food being transported thousands of miles before they are eaten. And consumers—especially millennials—are increasingly concerned with the sustainability of the food they eat.

Sustainable Transportation

Aside from the health benefits associated with sustainable food choices, making food transportation more sustainable can have an impact on the environment and on world hunger. According to The World Bank:

  • Up to 50% of harvest is wasted between farm and fork—the moment we actually consume food.
  • Transport-related emissions account for about 15% of overall greenhouse gas emissions. And 60% of those emissions are coming from road transport.
  • Logistics costs affect small farmers disproportionally (up to 23% of their total costs).

To help companies make their supply chains greener, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed the SmartWay program in 2004. The program, which is completely voluntary, has helped its partners save over 7 billion gallons of fuel, lower fuel costs by $24.9 billion, and reduce carbon emissions by 72.8 million metric tons. SmartWay, which is a public-private partnership among the EPA, state and local governments, and the transportation industry, accomplishes several things:

  • It provides a comprehensive and well-recognized system for tracking, documenting, and sharing information about fuel use and freight emissions across supply chains.
  • It helps companies identify and select more efficient freight carriers, transport modes, equipment, and operational strategies to improve supply chain sustainability and lower costs from goods movement.
  • It supports global energy security and offsets environmental risk for companies and countries.
  • It reduces freight transportation-related climate change and air pollutant emissions by accelerating the use of advanced fuel-saving technologies.

Look for the SmartWay logo to know that your food is being transported according to the best available efficiency technology and carbon data.


How to Set Realistic Resolutions in 2017

Almost half of all Americans make New Year’s resolutions, yet two years later, only 19 percent have been able to keep them. One significant cause of this loss of resolve lies in the resolutions themselves; unrealistic resolutions are almost impossible to keep.

Setting realistic resolutions for the new year

This year, start by getting your resolutions into shape before doing anything else. Check out these simple ways to make your resolutions more realistic.

Instead of “Lose weight,” try “Eat healthier.”

Year after year, people resolve to go on diets and swear off unhealthy foods. Yet before the summer, they’re back to their old habits. That’s because strict deprivation is almost impossible to maintain over the long term.

Instead of testing your willpower with a destined-to-fail diet, try making small, incremental steps to improve your overall eating habits. Before diving into a cheeseburger, eat a hearty salad first. You may still want the cheeseburger, but you might eat less of it if you’ve satisfied part of your appetite already.

When eating from USConnect’s Bistro To Go!® micro markets, make sure to look for the apple heart logo that indicates  The Right Choice … for a Healthier You items to help you make better choices.

Instead of “Go to the gym every day,” try “Be more active.”

Every January, gyms across the country are overrun by New Year’s Resolutioners: people who have resolved to go to the gym more in the new year and are getting a good start on their goals. However, by February, the crowds have thinned out, and by summer, half the equipment is empty again.

Going to the gym every day is just not realistic for most people. But walking an extra 10 minutes a day is, along with taking the stairs, doing some yoga every day, or myriad other small changes.

Fitness experts suggest that fitness goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.

Instead of “Be less stressed,” try “Work to improve my well-being.”

Stress and exhaustion can derail even the most realistic resolutions. Ordering yourself to be less stressed is counterproductive, but once again, there are many small steps that can help you achieve this goal. Tried-and-true methods include the following:

  • Get more sleep by turning off all electronics an hour before bedtime. Studies consistently show that the blue light of short-wavelength-enhanced phone and tablet screens can interfere with the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep.
  • Keep a gratitude journal. Researchers have found that actively being grateful is strongly correlated with happiness and a sense of well-being. The act of thinking about gratitude can actually affect brain chemicals!
  • Try meditation. Meditation, mindfulness, and even just deep breathing exercises can reduce the amount of cortisol—a hormone linked to stress—in your brain.



What Were the Big Coffee Trends of 2016?

Here’s the buzz on America’s favorite beverage – coffee!

Plain Drip Coffee Consumption Is Declining.

According to the National Coffee Association’s 2016 National Coffee Drinking Trends (NCDT) report, generic coffee made in a standard drip coffeemaker is losing popularity in What Were the Big Coffee Trends of 2016?favor of gourmet coffee drinks, especially those make with espresso. Here are some stats from the report:

  • Daily consumption of espresso-based beverages has nearly tripled since 2008, according to the latest data from the 2016 NCDT.
  • Between 2008 and 2016, past-day consumption of gourmet coffee beverages soared from 13% to 36% among 18-to-24-year-olds, and from 19% to 41% for those 25-39.
  • For espresso-based beverages alone, the jump become 9% to 22% for the 18-24 group and 8% to 29% for those 25-39.

Millennials Are Leading the Charge.

As this blog has noted multiple times, Millennials (those born between 1981 and 1997) are at the forefront of many workplace and nutritional trends, and coffee is no exception. The NCDT report found that “Millennials are drinking coffee out-of-home, turning coffee consumption into a public expression of individuality.” Millennials also crave a connection to the products they purchase, and tend to be willing to pay more for fair-trade-sourced coffee.

A Looming Coffee Shortage?

From its first use in the sixteenth century to today, coffee has been a mainstay of many people’s days: especially their mornings. Many of us find it difficult to start the day without coffee’s caffeine and bitter flavor. A recent report, therefore, may strike terror in the hearts of many coffee drinkers. The Climate Institute recently released The Brewing Storm: The climate change risks to coffee, which suggests that wild coffee could be extinct by 2080. Want to make sure that our children and children’s children get to enjoy coffee too? Check out things we can do to mitigate climate change and issues for coffee growers.


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 2019. 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.








Operations Focus: The Logistics of Fresh

As we’ve discussed here and here, the future of foodservice is fresh. This trend is sharpest among Millennials (those born between 1981 and 1997), although other generational groups are also coming along for the ride. Most nutritionists and healthcare providers agree that fresh food is healthier than food that’s overly processed and packaged. Operations FocusHowever, this sharp upswing in the popularity of fresh food can create difficulties for foodservice providers.

Several decades ago, foodservice distributors provided “one-stop shopping” that streamlined deliveries and allowed economies of scale that drove down prices. With lower demand for fresh food, weekly or bi-weekly deliveries were the norm. But in today’s market where freshness reigns, foodservice providers need to look to innovative logistics in order satisfy customer demand.

Stocking and maintaining appropriate inventory is especially tricky with fresh foods. Order too much and it spoils; order too little and customers can’t get their choice. Given the short shelf life of fresh foods, either option is risky. Technology is helping to solve this problem with tracking and analytics systems that provide real-time visibility of inventory needs and allow businesses to right-size their orders to meet customer demand.

One foodservice expert also suggests a specialized transportation system called perishable consolidation. Perishable consolidation is perfect for transporting fresh food that doesn’t fill a complete truck (known as less-than-truckload, or LTL). LTL shipping reduces the time that fresh food must sit in a warehouse waiting to be shipped, thus increasing its freshness.

USConnect strives to continuously improve its Bistro To Go!™ fresh food kiosks—always looking for fresher foods and greater choice. Improved logistics, technology, and transportation help our efforts.

Spring into Specials

Just in time for spring, USConnect is pleased to announce our quarterly specials. All the items listed below are buy four, get the fifth free when you use your USConnect OneCard or the USConnectMe app.Spring Special for USConnect Rewards Members

Healthier Choices

  • Turkey Provolone Pretzel Melt
  • Ocean Spray Orange Juice
  • Naked Juice Mighty Mango
  • Dove Dark Whole Cranberry
  • Kraft Mozzarella String Stick Single
  • Baked Cheetos Crunchy Flamin’ Hot
  • Baked Lays Cheddar & Sour Cream
  • Baked Cheetos Crunchy Hot
  • Sunchips Multigrain Harvest Cheddar
  • Nature Valley Fruit & Nut Chewy Trail Mix Bar
  • Food Should Taste Good Multi Grain Tortilla Chips
  • Food Should Taste Good Blue Corn Tortilla Chips
  • Sabra Roasted Garlic Pretzel

Frozen Meals and Snacks

  • Bacon Chicken Ranch Club Pretzel Melt
  • Pepperoni & Cheese Pizza Pretzel Melt
  • Twix Ice Cream Impulse Bar

Grab a Cold One

  • Snapple Peach, Diet Peach, Lemon, Strawberry Kiwi, Apple, Mango Madness, Diet Half-n-Half Bottles
  • Canada Dry 20-ounce Bottles
  • 7-Up 20-ounce Bottles
  • A&W and A&W Diet 20-ounce Bottles
  • Sunkist Orange and Diet Orange 20-ounce Bottles
  • Gatorade Fierce Grape and Fruit Punch
  • Lipton Peach Iced Tea, Pure Leaf Sweet Tea, and Half & Half Iced Tea and Lemonade
  • Mt. Dew Code Red and White Out
  • Starbucks Frappucino Mocha
  • Sobe Lifewater Dragon Fruit
  • Lipton Sparkling Peach
  • Izze  Sparkling Blackberry and Clementine
  • AMP Traction Grape
  • Pepsi Wild Cherry Bottle
  • Red Bull Red, Blue, Orange, and Yellow Editions

Feeling Sweet?

  • Reese’s Snack Mix
  • Hershey’s Snack Mix
  • Snack Bites Hershey Almond
  • Snack Bites Payday
  • Reese’s Minis King Size
  • Kit Kat Minis King Size
  • York Minis King Size
  • Reese’s Cups King Size
  • Kit Kat King Size
  • Twix Vend Size
  • Twix Bites
  • M&M Peanut Butter Share Size
  • M&M’s Peanut Butter Single
  • Dove Milk Choc Single
  • Wonka Chewy Spree
  • 100 Grand Bar
  • Butterfinger
  • Wonka Chewy Sours Sweetarts
  • Sweetarts Gummy Peg Bag, Mini Chewy, and Soft & Chewy Ropes

Pop a Pastry

  • Knott’s Strawberry and Raspberry Shortbread Cookies
  • Pop-Tarts: Frosted Strawberry, Brown Sugar Cinnamon, Blueberry, Cherry, S’Mores, Hot Fudge Sundae, and Chocolate Chip
  • Powdered Mini Donuts

Snack Time

  • Rold Gold Three-Cheese Pretzel Thins
  • Cool Ranch Doritos
  • Lay’s Kettle Cooked Mesquite BBQ Chips
  • Lay’s Sour Cream & Onion Chips
  • Fritos Twist Honey BBQ Corn Chips
  • Cheetos Puffs
  • Smartfood Jalapeno Ranch Popcorn
  • Grandma’s Peanut Butter Cookie
  • Kettle Cooked Salt and Vinegar, Horseradish, Jalapeno, Original, and Mesquite BBQ Chips
  • Lance Nip Cracker with Cheese

Remember, card holders earn 5 reward points for every dollar spent, and redeem online for cash back on your account. You’ll earn up to 2.5% back every day! Your rewards also give back: at participating locations, 1.5% of every dollar spent on your OneCard or the USConnectMe app goes to the charity of your choice. Now that’s truly rewarding! If you’re not already signed up for USConnectMe, register here. If you haven’t already downloaded the USConnectMe app, do it today at the Apple Store or Google Play Store.

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.