To say that the UK has a soft spot for beige food is an understatement. As a country we absolutely love our bread, potatoes and pastries, as well as coffee and tea. Wherever you look, the citizens of this fine country love a delicious pasty, sandwich and sweet treat.
So, what’s been happening to the food habits of this carbohydrate crazed nation with the arrival of more vegan, vegetarian and other healthier foods in fresh food vending machines? Have we finally started to turn our back on the brown and cream in favour of green?
In this article we take a look at the food trends of UK consumers and consider how much of an impact healthier fresh food is having on eating habits at work.
What’s beige food?
Beige food is a generic, slang term that covers a range of different foods that broadly have the same light brown or cream colour. Generally speaking, beige foods are high in carbohydrates and are stodgier, heavier foods in the stomach. Thanks to their high carbohydrate levels though, they’re a staple of the British diet, as they release a huge amount of energy into the body throughout the day.
It is also true that these types of mainly-carbohydrate foods are easy to prepare, and can usually be bought in a bag and eaten on the go. They’ve become an all-round accessible source of food to keep families going through long work and school weeks. They are also great products to offer in work canteens or break areas in fresh food vending machines.
They’ve also been able to capture British hearts thanks to their relatively good value compared with meats, dairy products and other types of to-go foods, which are more susceptible to price rises as a result of the scarcity of some ingredients. Breads and other ‘beige’ foods are produced with grains which is a far more abundant ingredient and allows for fresh breakfast and lunch products to be made in their millions, every day.
What impact have healthier diets had on fresh food vending?
It’s almost impossible for you to have missed the rise of vegetarian food over the last 20 years. Where once it was unthinkable to have a meal without meat, now there are around 3.5 million people in the UK alone who entirely avoid eating meat or fish in their diet. The impact of this is that food manufacturers have ramped up their production of vegetarian foods and invested in innovation to cater for these consumers.
In fresh food vending machines in workplaces up and down the country, this transition has been taking place, with the vast majority of vending operators now offering a much more mixed range of products suitable for meat eaters and vegetarians. Some sandwiches in this category include hummous and harissa sandwiches, and plant based meat alternatives of favourites including the BLT and All Day Breakfast sandwiches.
There’s also been an increase in demand of the last few years for international products with healthier credentials, including Japanese and Korean foods, such as sushi and noodle dishes. These are particularly popular for those without specific dietary requirements, who want to make a more conscious effort to eat more healthily.
Alongside the introduction of all new product lines, there’s been increased shelf space for a bunch of different products such as salad bowls, soup pots and fresh fruit yoghurts. These sorts of products have been available in supermarkets for many years but now have a regular presence in food vending machines, including commercial smart fridges.
Has the balance between beige food and healthier food changed?
There’s no simple answer to this question, because the trend has not been consistent across different business industries or areas of the country, but is more of a personal lifestyle driven piece. Simply changing the product range in a fresh food vending machine based on what we see in supermarkets or as a reaction to industry reports, does not give a complete picture of the way food in workplaces works.
For example, there are some warehousing, logistics and manufacturing settings where staff are doing hard physical work for long shifts, and know exactly what they like to eat and drink. In these sorts of sites, the introduction of healthier options does not have the same sort of effect on dietary habits, with staff just wanting to grab something quickly that they know they like, and enjoy their break. In these settings, beige food rules – the high calorie, easy to consume products are well aligned with the needs of the workforce.
In other settings, such as office environments or those less physical workplaces with very diverse workforces, introducing a wider range of products makes perfect sense. With halal, kosher and vegetarian diets, it’s always the case that food vending machine ranges will need to adapt, and naturally this means that there will be fewer beige products. It also means that with more vegetarian diets, the need to include more fresh salads and vegetable based options will be higher.
Not only this, but in these less physical work environments, there’s less need for calorific, high energy products during breaks, and there’s likely more emphasis on keeping healthy in more sedentary jobs.
For these reasons and more, it’s hard to say that there’s been a massive shift across the country, but there is certainly evidence of change within certain business industries. In some workplaces though, there’s just not the demand for these different products, and the typically beige products continue to reign.
What’s the best fresh food setup for a business, then?
This is where we can help. We’ve got decades of experience working with different businesses to help them identify the food and drink needs of their workers, and put a solution in place which will offer a truly inclusive lunch and snack provision. Fresh food vending machines are a great solution in many businesses, and finding the right product mix will give you highly satisfied and motivated employees.
If you’re looking for a fresh food vending solution and want some expert advice, why not speak to our friendly sales team on 01865 341011, or send us an enquiry. We’d love to hear from you.