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How to Implement Healthy Vending

Recently my wife was visiting our local community center noticed that they did not have a snack vending machine. So she seized the opportunity and asked the director if it would be ok to install a snack or snack/soda combo machine near the restrooms of the center. She was told that if we could provide healthy vending options, they would consider it, but that they did not want to promote junk food.

Just last week I was feeling philanthropic & I called the Director of the County Parks Department to see if they would allow me to place a small bulk candy machine in the nature center, and I would donate all of the proceeds to help fund the new nature center expansion, for which they are still soliciting funds. The definite answer has not come back yet but it appears that they too do not want to promote candy, even if it generates $200 per year in revenue for them without any work on their part.

Stories like these are nothing new and they are only going to increase as society is placing a higher value on health, which is a good thing, right? So does that means that Vendors across the nation are going to suffer as schools & other organizations are demanding healthier products? If we do not offer healthy vending choices in our machines, then yes, & we will not weather this new health craze storm. I hear some vendors say that they would stock the healthy stuff if the people would purchase it. And then we hear the people say that they would buy the healthy stuff if the vendors would stock it. So how do we break this stale mate?

I have found that it does not have to be an all-or-nothing approach. You do not have to go out & buy a new vending machine that has photos of strawberries, and fruit juices plastered all over the machine. You do not have to stock the machine entirely with nutritious foods & give up all the chocolate. What you can do, if your clients are asking for it, is to dedicate 30% of the selections to healthy options. This will be enough so that those individuals who still want their traditional snacks and carbonated soda drinks can have them, but those people who want healthier choices may also have them. You don’t need to go out and buy a new vending machine- in the majority cases your existing machine will work fine.

In 2007 the National Automated Merchandising Association (NAMA) launched FitPick, which is a system that utilizes stickers for vending machines that make out nutritious products. What they recommend is placing a large healthy vending sticker on the vending machine which shows their customers how to pick more nutritious products. Then the vendor should also place little FitPick stickers next to the selections which are healthy as defined by the FitPick rules where the product must have no more than:

  • 35% of total calories from fat
  • 10% from saturated fat
  • 35% from sugar by weight

Healthy vending business

A study by Vendingtimes.com shows that when you switch 30% of your vending products to healthy products & you group those items together, and advertise them with the healthy vending sticker, then your sales can actually improve by 20%. If you want more information on the FitPick program or to order stickers for your vending machine, you can visit them at www.fitpick.org.

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