Chef Jessica Foust of Farmer’s Fridge explains why visually attracting consumers is vital for a vending machine concept.

Sponsored by the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council.

As customers grow more focused on health than ever, it comes as no surprise that the foodservice industry is searching for new ways to provide nutritional and delicious foods with the convenience their customers need. While diners want fast, guilt-free options, attracting them to purchase these dishes still presents challenges, especially when a concept centers on selling fresh, chef-driven meals out of vending machines. For Farmer’s Fridge, a Chicago-based brand that does just that, perhaps no element is as important to the company’s success as the visual appeal of products. This makes it critical for the vending machine chain to use ingredients that are not only attractive for their nutritional benefits, but that also provide the visual appeal needed to make guests stop and look at options within vending machines.

Chef Jessica Foust, registered dietitian and culinary director for Farmer’s Fridge, explains how one ingredient—blueberries—helps the brand draw in guest traffic while providing diners with healthy snack and meal options on the go.

1. Seeking fast, flavorful, healthy and convenient food, what is the typical Farmer’s Fridge customer?

We believe fresh food should be as easily accessible as a candy bar, and through our offerings, we are giving customers an array of options to eat well, and live well, in any situation. Our typical customer is everyone from a parent to professional to college student looking for wholesome and delicious meals and snacks while on the go.

2. When selling from on-the-go vending machines, how important are first impressions of your product?           

First impressions are everything, and we strive to ensure customers have a great introduction to our food and brand. Farmer’s Fridge isn’t just a vending machine; it is elevated vending. Our state-of-the-art Fridges allow us to dispense restaurant-quality food, and you can see that when you visit a Fridge. All our menu items are stored in clear recyclable jars, providing customers with a direct look at the food they will enjoy. It is important that each ingredient is as fresh as possible to deliver a great food experience.  We’re also constantly innovating to attract consumers in new ways, by featuring ingredients during their peak season and celebrating them by adding beautiful, colorful images of the food to the touchscreen on every Fridge.

3. To attract the health-conscious customer, does your culinary team highlight ingredients that have an instant health halo recognition, such as blueberries?

We believe in serving a variety of flavorful, minimally processed, and plant-forward foods that our customers crave. It’s our guiding principle to offer food that can help people eat better and live healthier, happier lives. Because of this, we make a conscious effort in our kitchen to leverage ingredients like fresh blueberries, which you’ll find in our Greek Yogurt & Granola, or kale, in our twist on the classic Caesar salad. We are constantly innovating to create menu options that are good for all, while never sacrificing taste.

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4. What makes blueberries a good addition to Farmer’s Fridge offerings?

We strive to create menu items that look as fresh as they taste, and blueberries do just that. The flavor, texture, color, and versatility that blueberries offer makes them a staple in our pantry, and over the years, we’ve been proud to feature them in menu items ranging from salads to breakfast item and snacks.

5. Can blueberries help make Farmer’s Fridge offerings cleaner, less processed, and more natural?

Our goal is to deliver minimally processed, wholesome foods to our customers, and blueberries, as well as other fresh fruits and vegetables, are key ingredients for our menu. With minimal preparation, blueberries add great flavor and nutrition benefits to a wide array of recipes. It’s a sure-to-please ingredient, too. Have you ever met anyone who didn’t like blueberries?

6. For health-conscious customers trying to ‘eat the rainbow,’ does blueberry’s unique pop of color capture attentions and appetites?

Eating the rainbow can be difficult, but our menu is designed to make this task a bit easier and more convenient. Adding blueberries to a recipe is a flavorful way to introduce a superfood and new color into your daily diet. Providing produce across the rainbow of ingredients is definitely a priority for us and something in which we take great pride.

7. For the blueberry lovers out there, do you have any exciting plans on the horizon for blueberries?

At Farmer’s Fridge, we allow the season to be our muse, but summer and berry season is definitely one of my favorite times of year. Customers will have to wait until 2018 to see the exciting new options, but rest assured blueberries will be featured on our menu.

8. Is there anything else you think our readers should know about blueberries?

Developing a menu for health-conscious consumers keeps us on our toes as we only want to offer the best ingredients, but we know that takes some work. Blueberries are a source of many essential nutrients and antioxidants, such as Vitamin C, and it’s simple to start implementing them into your everyday meal choices, as we do at Farmer’s Fridge.

Chef Jessica Foust is a registered dietitian and currently serves as culinary director for Famer’s Fridge, a “12-square-foot restaurant” that operates over 60 locations across the Chicagoland area. She previously served as director of culinary innovation for McDonald’s USA and has provided culinary and nutritional direction for restaurants, hotels, manufacturing, health care, and spa settings. Foust has been involved in the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), Research Chefs Association (RCA), and The Culinary Institute of America Healthy Menus R&D Collaborative. A registered dietitian, she holds degrees from The Culinary Institute of America and is a Summa Cum Laude graduate of Johnson and Wales University. She completed her dietetic internship at the California Polytechnic State University.   

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