In the early 2000s I recall cabin crew gossip going into overdrive on learning that the latest inflight service product was to be launched within days. Passenger meal trays were to be replaced – at certain times during a flight – with snack boxes. Would this cheapen the experience for the passenger? Was this to be the end of inflight meal service as we knew it?
Fast forward to today and the humble snack box has not only survived the wrath of cabin crew, it has evolved in a big way, offering a plethora of fresh or shelf-stable items that airlines around the world can customise for their passengers (and crew), and reap the benefits from.
Among the companies that work with airlines and caterers to bring inflight health products to the snack box market is Amsterdam-based Vitalit Laboratories, whose ‘FlyFit’ wellness range of products includes drinks, nutritional bars and even “direct-to-mouth” vitamin shots (with cutlery pack) that aim to reduce the effects of jetlag and improve inflight wellness. The FlyFit ‘Flow’ drink, for example, contains vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and boasts an ability to increase blood flow, which is particularly crucial on long flights.
The latest airline to offer FlyFit is Norwegian, which is offering FlyFit snack boxes as part of its kids’ meal offering. The ‘Pioneer Pack’ contains an antioxidant-infused drink and nutritional bar. Germany’s airberlin, meanwhile, offers the same pack, compliments of the carrier, on select services. Other airline customers of snack-boxes – be they for passengers and/or crew – include Virgin Australia, Air Canada Jazz, Thomas Cook, Belgium’s Jetairfly, Dutch charter Arkefly and easyJet.
Selling the products as part of airline buy-on-board (BOB) programmes “is not our focus at the moment”, says co-founder Boudewijn van Eeghen, since “most of the time [our products are] included in a box service which is provided by a caterer”. It’s clear, however, that FlyFit has future BOB applications.
So why are snack boxes so popular today? For starters, snack boxes are easier to manage and deliver to customers by crew, according to van Eeghen, noting, “The feedback from each of the various cabin crew teams has been fantastic so far.”
Snack boxes can also be cost effective for airlines because the caterer does not need to charge tray set-up fees; the snack boxes are usually assembled away from the catering facility and delivered ready to be placed into aircraft galleys. Since the boxes use less galley space, airlines can “return cater” their aircraft (no out-port catering). If return catering is not a priority, airlines can use the free space to house other on-board products that can be sold to increase ancillary revenues.
Airline management is also attracted to the branding possibilities offered by snack boxes.
It’s worth noting that passengers (and inflight catering managers) may balk at snack boxes as a meal replacement; some perceive snack boxes as a lower quality offering compared to tray set-ups. However, one need only look at the array of snack boxes on the market to see that some of these do not compromise on quality and still reflect current inflight trends.
What’s in your inflight snack box?