One of the big challenges companies face today is how to provide their staff with access to healthy food choices in a way which is integrated and sustainable within their everyday working lives. Encouraging employees to make healthier food options can assist in the reduction of their health risk factors whilst also having a positive impact on their overall productivity and engagement.
The challenges that Australian companies face today in providing staff with access to healthy food options include:
- Longer and more flexible working hours
- Expansion to outer suburbs due to scarcity in land and rising rents where there are limited food options
- A stagnant vending industry providing limited healthy food options
- Significant costs of providing in-house cafeterias which are also limited by its hours of operation
Companies in the US such as Amazon, IBM, Unilever, Target, DHL, Amex and Nestle have solved these challenges and have, for some years now, been using micro markets as a key strategy to provide their staff with onsite convenient access to healthier food options.
What is a micro market?
Micro markets are an unmanned food establishment, also known as a self-service food market. It is an open market that provides packaged foods, drinks, whole fruit and fresh food using a fully automated payment system.
In a micro market, the consumer picks a product from an open rack display, or reach-in refrigerator, and scans the item at a self-checkout kiosk. The markets are operated within a monitored framework, supported by surveillance cameras.
Micro markets are not accessible to the general public and are typically found in workplaces with secure access.
A proven success in the United States
Today, micro markets are the fastest growing segment of the US foodservice channel, largely driven by companies as a means to deliver convenient and healthier food solutions to their employees.
In 2012, there were about 2,642 micro markets installed across workplaces in the United States. In 2017, this number increased to almost 24,000 markets. Research firm, Bachtelle & Associates project by 2022 that the number of micro markets will reach 35,000.
The success in the US, has seen the recent expansion of the micro market concept to other international locations with companies in the UK, Italy and Canada now providing the solution to their employees. Germany and France will begin in 1H2019. Asia has been slower to adopt the concept, with Australia now the first Asia Pacific country to introduce micro markets to the workplace.
How can micro markets help improve employee health?
The key benefit of a micro market is the unrivalled convenience of being onsite and available 24/7. This caters more to today’s flexible and time poor working environments and solves that undisputed challenge of employees balancing healthiness and convenience.
The solution allows for a large variety of healthy products without the restrictions of typical vending machines. Products which cover breakfast, lunch, dinner and all the snacking in between. It allows for the provision of fresh food options such as fruit, salads, wraps, ready to go meals and cold pressed juices. Importantly, it can provide a range of products that allow for an employee to eat a balanced diet throughout the day.
Why Australian employees are ready for micro markets?
We believe there are four key reasons Australian employees are ready to adopt the micro market concept at their places of work:
- With Australia’s high obesity rate, Australians are becoming more informed about their health and want to make healthier eating choices;
- The majority of Australian employees believe it is important for their employer to have a wellness program in place;
- Australians are spending $2.6 billion each year on food and drink delivery according to new research from comparison site finder.com.au. With stories of workers getting their coffees delivered by Uber Eats, it’s clear we are a time-poor nation obsessed with convenience;
- Whilst Australia was initially slow to adopt the self-service revolution, it is now well and truly embedded in our everyday lives.
For more information on micro markets in Australia and how they can benefit your workplace, visit www.morsl.com.au
Chart Source: 1 “State of The Industry”, Automatic Merchandiser, Emily Refermat, June/July 2018