An apple a day…



Flick though the snacks offered by most catalogue or online office suppliers and you’ll probably be faced with a fairly limited choice of biscuits, chocolate bars, crisps and sweets. High on calories but not that great for the waistline.


In fact, a survey by online job site earlier this year reported that 45 percent of workers have gained weight at their current jobs and that two-thirds of employees snacked at work at least once a day.


However, it seems that office workers would really prefer to have more healthy options available to them according to a recent survey by internet-based fresh produce delivery company Peapod.


A Biz Bites survey for Peapod polled workers in the New England area of the US and came up with some interesting results.


For example, the most common foods provided by companies for their staff are ‘salty snacks’ and ‘cookies, crackers and snack bars’ (see your office supplies catalogue), while the most desired items amongst employees are ‘fresh produce’ and ‘breakfast foods’.


"Workplaces are buying stuff that their employees do not want to eat," Peapod’s director of marketing Peg Merzbacher told


Only 30 percent of employees whose workplaces provide snack options strongly agree that their workplace provides enough healthy options, while 63 percent of those surveyed admitted that they find it "challenging" to eat healthily at work.


And now Peapod is cashing in on this trend by expanding its fresh produce delivery business to corporate clients.


"We have always had business customers but we really started analysing the trends about 2 years ago," said Merzbacher.


"We noticed that sales from workplace customers were growing rapidly – sales growth in this category was over 20 percent in the first quarter of 2008 compared to 2007."


Peapod says that its typical business customers are SMBs of between 15-100 employees in the financial, professional or services sectors – investment companies, design/advertising companies, real estate, law firms, university offices, doctor’s offices, etc.


Orders are typically over $200 and best selling products include fresh fruit, diet sodas, bottled water and vitamin waters.


Merzbacher says that the service is doing so well in Boston that Peapod has set up a dedicated facility for corporate clients located in the downtown area.


"When they order, customers at our dedicated Boston facility see a special selection of foods and beverages specifically designed for the workplace customer."


Peapod’s business customers pay the standard delivery fee if they are not too fussy about the time of delivery, but must pay a small surcharge of $3-5 if they want the order to be delivered within a specific time window.


"This compensates for longer delivery times due to delays with parking at loading docks, going through security, waiting for elevators, etc," says Peg Merzbacher.


Has Peapod ever thought about teaming up with local office suppliers to increase its customer base?


"We have not looked very seriously into that option," admits Merzbacher.


"Coordinating our delivery options with someone else would add even more complexity to an already complex operation – we are currently looking at it on a go-it-alone basis."


Office suppliers may not be able to deliver perishable goods yet, but sales may get a boost by offering healthier alternatives in the snacks and beverages section.


Other results from the Peapod survey:

  • Nearly 50 percent of employees cite having too many tempting snack options in their workplaces as the top reason they are not able to eat healthily in the workplace.
  • Employees have a more positive perception of a workplace that offers food to its employees: 3 out of 4 employees consider themselves more productive in the workplace when they have food easily available to them, while 4 out of 5 employees consider it a perk if a workplace provides food and snacks for its employees.
  • Only 14.3 percent of employees whose workplaces provide its employees with food ‘strongly agree’ that their workplace provides its employees with health food options.
  • More than 1 in 4 employees admit to feeling self-conscious eating unhealthy snacks and meals in front of their co-workers and approximately 1 in 5 employees admits to hiding unhealthy snack options in their desk to conceal them from their colleagues.