The Battle of the Snack Machines – Sweet V. Savoury.

Snack vending machines have become a ubiquitous part of our lives, offering quick and convenient access to a wide variety of crisps, chocolate bars and other confectionery. When you stand in front of a vending machine, you're faced with a dilemma.

You probably had a craving when you made the decision to walk over to the machine, but now you’re here, you’re left questioning what you really want – will you go for a salty snack, or indulge your sweet tooth?

In this article, we look at the different options available in snack vending machines, discuss consumer trends in the snack space, and look at what you can do to improve the range of snacks available in your own snack vending machine.

The State of the Snack Market

Let’s start by looking at the state of the snack market in 2023, and what snack brands are the favourites and least favourites amongst the UK’s consumers. We’ve taken the top 5 brands from YouGov’s Q3 2023 snack report.

  1. KitKat: Sitting atop the pile as the UK’s favourite snack brand in Q3 of 2023, is KitKat. Beating off competition from Walkers, Cadbury and other huge brands is impressive, especially when the KitKat product portfolio is significantly less broad than some other behemoth brands.
  2. Walkers: A real British institution, Walkers have been the UK’s leading crisp brand for decades. Other crisp brands have come and gone, and some have taken market share away from the Leicester-founded company, but they’ve held strong for a very long time. Everyone has their favourite flavour.
  3. McVities: You can’t have a proper British tea break without a world class biscuit, and McVities has such a wide range of biscuit product lines that you’re guaranteed to find something that you enjoy. A deserved top 3 position as a snack stalwart.
  4. Magnum: It’s no surprise that an ice cream manufacturer makes it into the Q3 top five snack brands, given the Summer heat and rush for refreshing snacks. Given how the weather has now turned, don’t expect to see this make the Q4 list…
  5. Galaxy: Rounding off our top 5 is the powerhouse behind the Ripple, Counters, Minstrels and more. Interestingly, Galaxy made the top 5 but Cadbury could only muster their first appearance on the list at number 32. Unbelievable.

Though the top 5 snack brands were predominantly those with sweet product lines, we have to take the data with a pinch of salt given the seasonality of a quarterly dataset. That said, even during the warmer months, Walkers holds its own.

We’d also love to get our hands on some supermarket meal deal data, as we all know the conundrum of picking the snack for your lunch and whether to go sweet or savoury – we’d like to bet that it’s an almost 50/50 split between sweet and savoury!

Now let’s take a deeper look at what products people typically buy from vending machines, and the preferences of consumers who utilise snack vending machines.

The Savoury Side

Salty snacks have been a vending machine staple for decades. Whether it’s crisps, nuts or pretzels there’s something inherently satisfying about the savoury, crunchy goodness of these options. But how popular are they?

According to a report from the National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA), salty snacks consistently rank among the top choices in vending machines. In fact, they account for around 36% of all vending machine sales, showing how important savoury product lines are to consumers.

Connect Vending Insight: We recently ran the numbers on the top selling savoury products in our vending machines and found that McCoy’s Flame Grilled Steak crisps came top of the pile, ahead of Mini Cheddars and the Thai Sweet Chilli variant of McCoy’s.

The Sweet Side

On the other side of the vending machine aisle, we have sweet snacks that range from chocolate bars to biscuits, flapjacks and sweets. For those with a sweet tooth, these treats are irresistible. The statistics paint a mouthwatering picture of their popularity, but are they more popular than their savoury counterparts?

The NAMA report mentioned earlier shows that sweet snacks are not far behind salty options, but are less popular, nonetheless. They make up approximately 32% of vending machine sales. The variety and indulgence offered by sweets have their loyal following.

Connect Vending Insight: Alongside the savoury options in our recent piece, we also looked at the most popular sweet options sold from our vending machines, and found that Kinder Bueno was by far the most popular sweet snack purchased from machines we manage in the UK.

The Influencing Factors in the Snack Battle

  1. Time of Day: Vending machine choices can often be influenced by the time of day. In the morning, people may lean toward sweet options like granola bars or those items that are easier on the stomach, while during the afternoon or evening, salty snacks become more appealing.
  2. Location: The location of the vending machine can also play a significant role. In a more sedantry workplace or office setting, people may opt for healthier snacks, while those in high-paced manufacturing facilities or at leisure complexes like fitness centres and gyms, foods with higher calorie content may be in higher demand.
  3. Seasonal Trends: Seasonal changes can affect vending machine preferences. For example, during the summer months, demand for cold and refreshing sweet snacks might increase, while in the winter, people tend to move towards more warming, comforting snacks.
  4. Evolving Health Considerations: It’s important to note that health concerns are increasingly influencing snack choices. Health-conscious consumers often look for options that are low in sugar, salt, and saturated fats.

Vending machine operators are responding to this demand by stocking healthier alternatives, such as baked crisps, whole-grain snacks, and fruit bars. As a result, the “sweet vs. salty” debate is evolving to include considerations of nutritional content.

So, what have we learnt about the battle for the snack machines – does savoury beat sweet, or is the UK’s sweet tooth too much to take on? Data from YouGov and from Connect’s own snack machines  show that both categories have their dedicated following, with salty snacks slightly edging out their sweet counterparts more broadly, but snack machines in our experience show that the opposite is the case, and sweet snacks take the crown.

Ultimately, it’s personal preference, and on any given day the scales can tip more heavily in favour of salty snacks than sweet, and vice versa. It’s also likely to continue to evolved based on several influencing facors, most notably the changes in dietary requirements and more health conscious approach many consumers are favouring.

If you’d like to learn more about the products that Connect Vending can offer to your staff in the workplace, why not reach out to our team. Call us on 01865 341011, email or submit a website enquiry to receive a call back.

We’d love to hear from you.