The demand for healthy, grab and go snacks is on the rise, and personal wellbeing and a healthy diet are of interest to an increasing number of people. Valio took part in a joint research project headed by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, and the result was a prototype of a snack vending machine that dispenses fibre- and protein-rich snacks based on consumer preferences – quickly and flexibly.
Snacks are an important part of dietary needs during a long day at work or school, and what’s in those snacks really does matter. A healthy snack helps to keep you alert and gives you added energy after your workday for physical fitness and other activities.
"Today people are increasingly more aware of their own personal needs and healthy lifestyles. Food also reflects different values and individual preferences. That’s why there is a growing demand for personalised, preference-based snacks that are easy and quick to prepare," says Kaisa Vehmas, VTT Senior Scientist and Project Manager.
Elina Kytö, Valio’s Senior Research Scientist working in consumer research, also believes in the demand for personalised food.
"We no longer eat to live; instead, eating is an important part of personal wellbeing and it’s also a way to express yourself. The ability to customise your food to your own needs and preferences is a trend that is strongly on the upswing. This trend will increasingly impact Valio's product development, as consumer awareness of their own wellbeing and personalised nutrition needs is growing," notes Elina Kytö.
A consumer test carried out in conjunction with the study indicated that there is great interest in a customisable snack product.
"The prototype offers a spoonable or drinkable alternative, and the choice of a milk- or oat-based product to which the consumer can add protein and fibre, if desired. There will be more alternatives in the future," Kaisa Vehmas believes.
She notes that snack vending machines similar to this prototype will eventually be located in places where people are on the move: at airports, train stations, workplaces and markets. Development of the service is limited only by the imagination.
"The next step will certainly be to test a more comprehensive service that combines more specific information that consumers provide about their own preferences, their health, or, say, their exercise calendar. Based on the personal profile information, the service can suggest snacks that are suitable for a specific individual and a specific time of day, e.g. post-workday and pre-workout, and, likewise, what to avoid because of allergies, for instance," Kaisa Vehmas describes.
In addition to Valio, the other companies participating in the VTT-headed FoodMyWay project were: Atria, Informa, JOBmeal, Miils, Nature Lyotech, PINC/Paulig and Raisio, whose expertise was utilised in the planning and testing of personalised snacks and in the building of the prototype. Consumers were also part of the product development.