Healthy vending is the hottest buzz word in the vending business today. Hopefully, it is the future of not only vending, but of American eating habits. Having said that, we're going to look at both the desires of people and at the reality of healthy products in vending.

Health food and junk food are subjects that have an emotional charge for people. Yet, wanting a healthy product out of a vending machine can be a similar impulse for the person who makes a new years resolution, joins a gym, and then only goes once or twice. This is fine for the gym which has less traffic and still collects a monthly fee for their contract. However, this is not good for the vendor who sells one or two items and then has to throw the rest away after they expire.

Ask yourself what is currently available for consumers in grocery stores & other retail outlets? If you go to your local grocery store and look at what is available in pre-packaged food for individual sale, you will find that only a small portion of it qualifies as healthy.

The reason that there isn't more healthy vending is because of normal business forces such as supply and demand and economies of scale. While there is a lot of desire for change there is not a lot of demand for the healthy items that are currently produced. This is because the majority of consumers want healthy snacks that taste like candy bars, sweet rolls, and fried potato chips when in fact healthy snacks taste like dried fruits and nuts.

The amount of products that are healthy and taste like these snacks are low. This means that there isn't a lot of variety in what is available. They also cost more, since there is a smaller amount of healthy items being produced.

Understanding your customer's needs

You can see that while a customer may want healthy items, you have to be smart about which items to include.

When setting up a location that wants healthy products, it's important to understand what the customer means by "healthy". Healthy Vending is defined differently by everyone. States and counties have different guidelines. Your location too will have their own definition of what is healthy and what is not. It's important to clarify this so that you can put the right product in their machines. Defer to the customers who use your machine, unless you are working in a government or other regulated system, then you should follow their guidelines. This may happen if you work in a hospital and a high school for example.

Healthy vending in California

There are many products which qualify in the state of California as healthy items for high school that people may not think are healthy. Some examples are Poptarts, Rice Krispie Treats, kettle corn, gummy bears, and sour worms. Other items that are perceived as healthy do not qualify, such as Sun Chips, granola, yogurt bars, and fruit snacks. Be sure to check their guidelines if you are dealing with a location that has regulations.

The realities of healthy beverage vending

First you should know that the sale of carbonated sugary beverages from vending machines only comprises three and a half percent of the sale of these beverages in the United States. This is not a significant enough portion of the total to make a great impact on overall buying behavior. Secondly, the sales of sodas in the United States has declined consistently since 1992. Therefore, sales of sodas from vending machines have also declined since 1992. Thirdly, you should know that obesity in America has increased since 1992.

Considering the insignificant portion of sodas that are sold through vending machines in conjunction with the recent obesity epidemic, it is absurd to think that the sale of sodas from vending machines is a significant cause of the obesity problem in America today.

American obesity is more likely due to the increase in pre-packaged non-nutritious food meals for families because of either both parents working or single parent households. It could also be a result of the increased screen time Americans spend with computers, videogames, handheld devices, smart phones, iPads, and countless cable television shows. This in turn promotes less exercise.

You cannot say this to your customer.

The reason you cannot say this to your customer is that generally people do not like to accept fault for their own mistakes.

It is much easier and safer to blame that evil vending machine for our own inactivity and poor dietary habits. If you try to explain this to your customers, you are fighting a losing battle.

There is a wider and wider variety of healthy beverage choices every year and, with the use of a glass front beverage machine, you can offer the customer many healthy choices. Still though, the sodas you stock will likely be the majority of your sales.

I will always do the ethical and right thing. My job is not to change my customers opinions and beliefs or show them that they are wrong. My job is to provide my customers with the beverages they want, whether they are healthy or not.

Robert is the owner of Custom Touch Vending, a five route vending company, and the resident business consultant at Vending How.


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