Tag Archives: vending

The Way to Employees’ Hearts Is Through Their Stomachs

Employee retention, especially in quick-turnover fields like information technology, is a perpetual problem for employers. How can companies keep their most valuable resources —their employees—happy? It turns out that the answer is simple: offer them free snacks.

The way to your employees heart may be thru their stomachs!

A recent survey by ORC International for Peapod (a grocery delivery service) found that 66 percent of employees in companies with “nicely stocked” kitchens rate themselves as “very happy” or “extremely happy” in their jobs. Of those who do not have this perk, 40 percent admit to being envious of friends who work for companies that do. Millennials (adults ages 18 to 34), in particular, seek this kind of workplace benefit; 66 percent say they would leave their current company for one that offered perks like snacks. Further, millennials were more than three times more likely to care about the availability of free office snacks than their colleagues who were over age 45.

Peapod, the grocery delivery system that commissioned the survey, has seen grocery deliveries to offices rise in recent years, with a focus on produce and other healthy food. These are some of the most popular items:

  • Bananas
  • Navel and Clementine oranges
  • Strawberries and blueberries
  • Gala apples
  • Red seedless grapes
  • Bartlett pears
  • Soda
  • Granola bars
  • Snack packs of pretzels and other salty snacks
  • Yogurt, especially Greek varieties

Peapod’s experience echoes wider trends governing healthy eating. Indeed, 83 percent of ORC’s survey participants said that having fresh and healthy snacks available is a “huge perk.” Since more than 56 percent of respondents agreed with the statement, “I hit an afternoon slump if I don’t have any snacks to refuel my energy,” it makes sense that employers would embrace this relatively low-cost way of increasing both productivity and employee loyalty.

With USConnect’s wireless integrated food service network, providing employees with the healthy snacks they want could be easier than ever. By issuing employees pre-loaded payment cards, they can choose the snacks they want at the times they want them. Keep the millennials happy, and the rest will come!

Fall 2015 Food Trends

The food and foodservice industries are like cruise ships; they’re huge, and they turn very slowly. Unlike fashion trends, which change with each season, food trends change slowly over time, with new products gaining a niche market before expanding more broadly.Which foods are trending this fall as the most popular?

That being said, this fall’s food trends follow the large-scale shift that we’ve been experiencing for the past few years: a focus on healthier food and a willingness to pay more for it. In fact, the 2015 Nielsen Global Health and Wellness Survey indicates that 90 percent of 30,000 respondents are willing to pay more for healthier food. Organic food sales have tripled in the past decade and continue to rise, and consumers are looking more closely than ever at their food’s labels to get a clearer sense of what they’re putting into their bodies.

This fall, we’re seeing the healthy food trend continue, with many traditionally unhealthy foods trying to clean up their acts. Competing with candy bars, dark chocolate-covered fruit and nuts are gaining popularity due to the anti-oxidants in dark chocolate and the vitamins and nutrients in fruits and nuts. Gummy fruit candy is now available with 20 grams of whey protein.

Consumers are keeping an eye on what they eat, and they’re more likely than ever to want clear, readable labels. The “clean label” movement focuses on ingredient lists that sound like consumers could find them in their own kitchens. The movement has even spawned its own conference and a growing consulting industry! Businesses are also increasingly “freeing” their foods of ingredients that consumers view as being undesirable; thus, look for more products bearing “gluten-free,” “GMO-free,” “nut-free,” or other “-free” labels.

The market for local food also continues to grow, with more consumers than ever being willing to pay more for locally source food or ingredients. Local sourcing can be a headache for companies, and many are responding with a mix of local and regional ingredients. This increases the freshness of the food, supports the local economy, and reduces the environmental impact of the supply chain: all factors that influence consumer purchasing.


DIY Trail Mix – How to Create the Perfect Blend for Energy, Health, and Taste

The weather’s finally starting to cool down, which means that hiking season is here! For at least the past century, trail mix has been a preferred snack for hikers; it’s easily portable, lightweight, and doesn’t need to be refrigerated. With the right ingredients, it provides sugar for a quick burst of energy as well as protein for more sustained efforts: factors that also make it a great snack for work. As with most foods, however, it’s important to check the nutritional information on prepared trail mixes before assuming that they’re all healthy; some of them are so loaded with sugar, fat, and salt that they should be treated like a dessert or special treat, not a healthy snack.

how to make your own healthier trail mix

One way to avoid confusion about trail mixes is to make your own. You can craft it to meet your own specific tastes and be sure to avoid any surprises in the fat, sugar, and salt departments. Here’s a handy guide on making your own trail mix.

Go crazy: add protein with nuts, legumes, and seeds.

The base of your trail mix—at least 50%—should be comprised of nuts, legumes, and seeds for protein. Whenever possible, choose options without extra salt and fat; you can always add your own salt later. These are good nut choices:

  • Almonds
  • Hazelnuts
  • Cashews
  • Chestnuts
  • Pistachios

Good legume choices include the following:

  • Peanuts
  • Soybeans/edamame (dried or roasted)
  • Chickpeas (dried or roasted)

These are good seed choices:

  • Pumpkin
  • Hemp
  • Flax
  • Chia
  • Sesame

Go slower: add sugar and fiber with dried fruit.

Dried fruit is a delicious part of many trail mixes. It provides a little sweetness, a little tartness, and some sugar and fiber to get you through the day. As with your protein choices, try to avoid extra fat and sugar. Banana chips, for instance, are often fried! And some dried fruits are loaded with sugar. When adding dried fruit to your trail mix, aim for about 40% of the total. Good dried fruit options include these:

  • Cranberries
  • Raisins
  • Blueberries
  • Apple chips
  • Cherries
  • Dates
  • Figs

Be careful: add treats.

Added sparingly, treats like candy can make your trail mix extremely appealing, but make sure to keep the percentage to no more than 10%. Yummy treats include the following:

  • M&Ms
  • Chocolate-covered fruit or pretzels
  • Yogurt-covered fruit or pretzels
  • Chocolate chips



Foods That Appear Good for You… but Aren’t: Part One


Everyone knows that foods like bacon, double cheeseburgers, potato chips, and ice cream sundaes are not good for you. We may splurge sometimes, but these foods make no claims for their nutritional value. The same can’t be said for some junk food that masquerades astricky-foods healthy food, or food that just plain seems like it should be healthy, but isn’t. Below, we’ve compiled a list of some of the foods that people most frequently think are healthy… but aren’t.

Trick Food #1: Granola

Is there any food that has such a reputation for healthfulness as granola? Since the 1960s, when many in the counter-culture movement embraced it as a health food, granola has been considered one of the most nutritious breakfast or snack foods available. But if you read the labels of most of today’s commercially available granola, you’ll see that a cup often contains as many as 500 calories, in addition to many grams of sugar and fat. Some granolas are healthier, but be sure to check the nutrition facts before you do some inadvertent damage to your diet.

Trick Food #2: Veggie Chips

It sounds too good to be true: crunchy, salty snacks that taste like potato chips but are as healthy as a serving of fresh vegetables. Unfortunately, things that sound too good to be true often are, and that’s the case with most veggie chips, sticks, and other snacks. In most cases, these snacks are indeed just potato chips in disguise; their primary ingredient is potato flour, and the vegetables are present only as coloring. If you really want to snack on veggies, look for vegetable snacks that actually look like vegetables; baked or fried veggie snacks are increasingly available and provide a genuine alternative to potato chips.

Trick Food #3: Yogurt-Covered Raisins, Pretzels, or Anything Else

Purveyors of yogurt-covered snacks trade on the public’s perception that anything involving yogurt is healthy. Yogurt itself is, of course, healthy; it’s filled with calcium, vitamin D, protein, and probiotics. But the main ingredients in the yogurt coating of most snacks are palm oil and sugar, with “yogurt powder” running a distant third. If you’re looking for the health benefits of yogurt, have a real yogurt, and treat yogurt-covered snacks as an occasional splurge.

Tea Trends: Yerba Mate and Yaupon Make Waves in the Beverage World

A plain “cuppa” just doesn’t cut it in today’s world of fast-moving food and beverage trends. When it comes to tea, many drinkers have moved far beyond the typical English Hot teas that new to you and great for your bodybreakfast brew and have discovered the leaves of our ancestors: brewed drinks that haven’t been seen in this country for centuries, if at all. Two of these, yerba mate and yaupon, continue to (re)gain popularity among the health- and trend-conscious.

Yerba mate (ilex paraguariensis) is a rainforest holly plant that is native to Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and parts of Brazil, where it has been consumed for centuries. The leaves are dried and then brewed in hot water, creating a drink similar to tea (which is technically only made from the leaves of camellia sinensis). Yerba mate contains caffeine, antioxidants, and nutrients like Vitamins A, B, C, and E as well as iron, potassium, calcium, and zinc—prompting many to call it a superfood. One study has tied yerba mate to reduced cholesterol, better management of obesity, and the prevention of cancer.

A more recent (re)addition to the brewed beverage scene is yaupon, which comes from an American cousin of yerba mate’s holly plant: the unfortunately (and misleadingly) named ilex vomitoria, or yaupon holly. Yaupon is native to the southeastern United States from coastal North Carolina all the way to Texas. Southeastern American Indians used the leaves to brew a strong concoction called “black drink,” which they consumed as part of one of their purification rituals. Archaeologists have found clay mugs with yaupon residue in Cahokia, Illinois, that were used as early as A.D. 1050!

Yaupon’s unfortunate Latin name comes from European explorers who saw the tribes’ purification rituals and wrongly assumed that the beverage was an emetic. In fact, some suggest that the name was a deliberate smear campaign in the early 18th century by a botanist in the employ of Ceylon tea importers, trying (successfully) to make sure that European settlers continued to drink their imported tea instead of the leaves that were growing in their back yard. In actuality, yaupon is a caffeinated beverage that tastes quite similar to green or black tea, with similar levels of antioxidants. It is gaining popularity as a locally sourced alternative to imported caffeinated drinks. Watch out, English breakfast!

Portion Size -v- Serving Size

Things You Didn’t Know About… Portion Sizes

It’s no secret that Americans are getting fatter; according to the CDC, almost 35 percent of adults and 17 percent of children are obese. The problem is complex, combining          socio-economics and large-scale food trends. However, consumer confusion about portion sizes certainly plays a significant role.what's the difference between portion size and serving size?

Portions are not the same as serving sizes.

When it comes to packaged food, a portion size can be many, many times larger than the recommended serving size. Even so-called “single-serve” packages of snacks may contain two to three actual servings, and restaurant portion sizes rarely stick to single serving guidelines. A 12-ounce soda is considered a single serving, but many consumers buy 20- or 24-ounce bottles instead… and drink them as a single serving. At most fast-food restaurants, a 12-ounce soda is a kids’ size: the smallest available size.

And even serving sizes have their problems as guidelines.

Reading the back of packages to see the recommended serving size is a good start, helping to keep consumers from mindlessly eating an entire bag of chips in one sitting. However, serving size information can sometimes be arbitrary and inconsistent. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) creates serving sizes by using the “reference amount customarily consumed” (RACC): that is, the amount that people usually eat. While the FDA is currently using decades-old data for its serving size guidelines, those guidelines are slowly being updated to reflect the amount that people actually eat. So while the current serving size for potato chips is one ounce (12-15 chips), once the RACC accounts for current eating habits, that number could potentially rise. Smart consumers will read the nutrition information whenever possible, but still understand the ramifications of eating a serving.

Serving sizes have changed over the years… and not for the better.

When Coca-Cola first gained popularity, it was sold in a six-ounce bottle; now, 24-ounce bottles are the most popular. Twenty years ago, the average bagel was three inches in diameter and contained 140 calories; today, a bagel is five to six inches in diameter and contains 250 calories. During that time frame, an order of french fries went from 2.4 ounces (210 calories) to a whopping 6.9 ounces (610 calories). If you have any of your grandparents’ old china, go and look at their dinner plates compared to dinner plates that were purchased more recently. Do you notice any difference? In the 1990s, the average size of a dinner plate jumped from 10 inches to 12 inches. The size of our plates influences the amount that we eat, even at home!




How to Make Iced Coffee at Work

Iced at the Office

The average American spends over $1,000 on coffee drinks per year; going out every day for a $5 frozen latte can be an expensive habit! Luckily, USConnect and Route 66 Coffee give you coffee-shop quality coffee right in the workplace, and with a few simple tricks, you can concoct your cold drinks right in your office kitchen. For cold coffee drinks, we recommend the bold flavor of Route 66 Chicago Dark Roast. Or if you’re looking for a less caffeine in the afternoon, try Route 66 Sonoran Desert Decaf.

how to make iced coffee yourself

Easiest Method Iced Coffee

If your office uses a Keurig or other single-serve coffee machine, pack the reusable cup with your favorite coffee, and choose the smallest cup size on the machine. This will create a strong, concentrated brew that you can pour directly over ice without worrying that the coffee will be too watered down. The best thing about this method (if you have access to a single-serve coffee maker) is that you can make iced coffee to order, whenever the desire strikes.

Plan-Ahead Iced Coffee

If you don’t have access to a single-serve coffee maker, you can still have delicious iced coffee; you just have to plan ahead a little bit. Simply brew your normal coffee, and once it has cooled somewhat, pour it into a glass jar to store in the refrigerator for about two hours. When it is fully chilled, pour it over ice, and voila!

Cold-Brew Coffee

Cole-brew coffee takes quite a bit of planning, but the smooth taste is well worth the bother. When the coffee grounds brew without heat, they don’t produce as much acid, creating coffee with lots of flavor but less bitterness.

To make cold-brew coffee in the office, you will need a large jar, a cheesecloth or nut-milk bag, and your favorite Route 66 coffee. Simply scoop 1.5 cups of coffee beans into the filter bag, tie the bag, and put it in the jar with eight cups of cold water. Keeping this ratio, you can halve, double, or even triple the recipe as needed. Leave the jar on your desk or in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours to brew. At this time, remove the filter bag, squeezing the extra coffee back into the jar. You have your cold-brew coffee! This method makes quite a concentrated brew, so you will want to add milk, cream, or even just water to dilute it.



Not Feeling Quite Right? Try These Mood Foods

Before the growth of modern medicine, doctors prescribed different foods for different ailments. The practice died out as western medical treatments expanded, but a recent movement is bringing these ideas back to the forefront of our medical and social culture. Read on to see how what you eat can boost your mental and physical health.

if you're body is feeling off adjust your food to better your mood!

The Problem: You’re exhausted all the time.

Try: Foods with more iron, especially red meat. An iron deficiency can lead to anemia, which causes consistent fatigue. If you’re a vegetarian, look for dark leafy vegetables like spinach as well as some beans. See our article on Food Pairings that Increase Nutritional Benefits to learn more about increasing the absorption of iron into your body.

The Problem: You’re jittery and stressed.

Try: Cutting down on the caffeine. Although it can help you feel more alert, it can also increase stress and anxiety. If you’ve been a several-cups-a-day person for an extended period, decrease your caffeine intake slowly to avoid withdrawal symptoms like headaches. Instead of coffee or a soda, try a mood-boosting shake: put a banana, strawberries, papaya, and flaxseed into a blender and shake it up for a serotonin boost without the jitters.

The Problem: You’re feeling depressed.

Try: Foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which several studies have shown to reduce feelings of depression. The best sources of these healthy fats are fish like salmon, but they are also widely available in our Bistro To Go™ kiosks in nuts, peanut butter, and food with chia seeds.

The Problem: You’re feeling down in the dumps.

Try: Some simple carbohydrates. Yes, we all know that from a pure weight-loss perspective, eating plain carbs is not a healthy choice. But eating carbs without protein or fat allows your body to create tryptophan, which transforms into serotonin in the brain. A high-carb snack can be a great treat at bedtime, since it can also help you fall asleep.

Breaking News? Sit-Down Restaurants Are Often As Unhealthy As Fast-Food

Fast-food restaurants have been getting a bad rap for years, and rightfully so; between the high fat and sodium contents and the urging to “supersize it,” fast-food has been a strong contributor to this country’s obesity epidemic. However, the vilification of fast-food restaurants has led many diners to assume that all other restaurant food is okay, which is of course not the case. Ingredients are ingredients no matter how quickly they’re served and consumed.


The “breaking news” about the unhealthiness of many sit-down restaurants is the result of a 2015 study published by the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign professor Ruopeng An in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It shows that people eating out at either fast-food or sit-down restaurants consumed an average of 200 more calories per day than those who ate at home. They also consumed more cholesterol, more sodium, and more total fat. The surprising data is that people who ate at sit-down restaurants actually consumed more sodium and cholesterol than those who ate at fast-food restaurants.

An, who studied seven years of data from the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, suggests that the social nature of dining out lends itself to extended meals, giving people time to consume more food and drink. Further, all the bad press given to fast-food restaurants may encourage people to feel that sit-down restaurants are a healthier option, without actually considering the nutritional content of their meals.

One answer to this problem may come in the form of new federal nutritional labeling regulations that go into effect in December of 2016. Under the regulations, all chain restaurants (those with more than 20 locations with the same name) will need to post nutritional information for all standard menu items. A similar local law in Washington State saw calorie awareness triple and calorie consumption decline, so hopes are high that these results can be replicated on a larger scale.

The federal labeling regulations also apply to vending machines, but USConnect is far out ahead of the game on that one. Our Bistro To Go kiosks and vending machines already provide nutritional information, and our The Right Choice…For a Healthier You™ program helps lead diners in the right direction.

USConnect and Route 66 Partner with Life in Green to Provide Eco-Friendly Coffee Solutions

USConnect’s premium coffee service, Route 66, is pleased to announce its new partnership with Life in Green packaging and accessories. USConnect, the United States’ only nationwide wireless integrated food service network, provides the highest quality fresh food through a variety of customized dining services, fresh-food vending services, unattended retail services, and office coffee services.


For many years, USConnect had purchased coffee for its office coffee services from other vendors, but in 2013, USConnect CEO Jeff Whitacre started thinking about how USConnect coffee could stand apart as its own brand: a brand that reflected the company’s values. Recognizing the iconic power of Route 66 in American culture, Whitacre and the USConnect team chose Route 66 as the name for its new coffee line. “There’s nothing more American than Route 66,” says Whitacre. “It represents the American spirit of adventure, of travel and experiencing new things in new places. As people travel along Route 66, they stop in coffee shops and diners all across America. This coffee celebrates that journey and the spirit of those travelers.”

Indeed, Route 66 roasters scour the world in search of the best beans and blends to create the most flavorful coffees. Each American Heritage coffee (see full list below) is named for a different stop on Route 66, representing the scope of the American experience. But for USConnect, it wasn’t enough to just embrace the American spirit of adventure. In order to help keep America great, Whitacre and USConnect felt that Route 66 should be an eco-friendly company. To that end, Route 66 is partnering with Life in Green to provide cups and accessories with the smallest possible environmental footprint. It’s about celebrating what’s best about America!

From the sunny shores of California to the Lone Star State, Route 66 coffees will magically transport coffee drinkers from their desks to some of the most notable places of our great nation:

California Blonde: A light, lively, perfectly balanced cup that’s easy to drink all day

Rocky Mountain Blend: From the heights of the Andes to the heights of the Rockies, this 100% Colombian coffee is fresh and heady.

Lone Star Select Roast: This 100% pure estate-grown coffee is as rich in flavor as the Texas soil.

Sonoran Desert Decaf: This seductive blend of the most flavorful coffees carries a unique, rich flavor without the caffeine.

St. Louis Doughnut Shop Blend: This medium roast is a great way to start the day with a smooth, clean taste and delightful aroma.

Chicago Dark Roast: Every sip of this rich, deep, robust roast is as vibrant in flavor as Chicago’s great heritage.