To address this, Finnish dairy company Valio took part in a joint research project headed by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland on a prototype of a snack vending machine that dispenses fiber- and protein-rich snacks based on consumer preferences – quickly and flexibly.
Kaisa Vehmas, VTT senior scientist and project manager, said 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 personalized, preference-based snacks that are easy and quick to prepare," Vehmas said.
Elina Kytö, Valio’s senior research scientist working in consumer research, also believes in the demand for personalized 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 customize 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 personalized nutrition needs is growing," Kytö said.
A consumer test carried out in conjunction with the study indicated there is interest in customizable snack products.
"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 fiber, if desired. There will be more alternatives in the future," Vehmas suggested.
She added that snack vending machines similar to the 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, she said.
"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,” Vehmas noted.
“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.”
In addition to Valio, other companies participating in the VTT-headed FoodMyWay project were Atria, Informa, JOBmeal, Miils, Nature Lyotech, PINC/Paulig and Raisio.
Consumers were also part of the product development.