healthy vending

Healthy Vending Machines – Yea or nay?

Healthy Vending Machine

Healthy Vending….for many vendors this is an oxymoron. For others, it’s an opportunity. And entry into this market doesn’t need to be expensive.

I’m going to date myself here. Back in the 80’s, there was always someone that wanted a more healthy food selection in their snack machine. When this happened, we all cringed. Back then healthy vending was a fad, meaningless to most. There was a poor selection of healthy items and most of it tasted bad. Yet, when the location (and someone at the top) asked for healthy, you put it in. You would take out a popular item and put in this “healthy” item that was not so healthy and had no taste. Once a month, you would dust off the front selection while checking the ever diminishing date code and put it back.

The difference is that healthy is now a way of life. It is not a fad but a trend, a way of life for many. Unfortunately, most of the old time vending companies still remember the “good ole days” when healthy didn’t sell. Some of these operators figure it out, but a lot don’t. Micro Markets have been a great help showing vending machine operators that healthy does sell. Yet, the product transition from micro markets to their vending machines fall short.

Is that because of the limited SKU’s in your 40 select snack machine? Probably. Who would take out a Snickers bar to put in a granola bar? Not many, if any. That’s where the “Healthy Vending” vending machine comes into play. Now, before you say Healthy machines are too expensive, they really aren’t. Healthy machines are only a decal package on a standard vending machine. They are not a “Specialty Vending Machine”, as some would have you think. They’re a machine that markets your healthy products better, due to proper advertising on the machine.

These machines, with proper graphics, make a statement. They are saying “I understand healthy. I get healthy. I’ll give you healthy.” All this is done with a graphic. Here’s an example I use to explain healthy marketing:

We have a local, lower cost supermarket that sells yogurt for ~$1.50. We have a “Healthy Supermarket” that sells that same yogurt for ~$2.50. How? The healthy supermarket projects an image that what they sell is better for you, so it is going to have to cost more. The low cost market has commoditized their store. Low cost store sells a product…healthy store sells a lifestyle.

“Yes, but I can’t sell a lifestyle. I have vending machines.”

Wrong. Don’t like the above scenario? How about this one? There is a 3rd Supermarket. They sell healthy foods at a medium price, as they try to cater more to the general public. They sell these healthy items in the (gasp) candy/snack aisle. But wait! They also have a separate area in the store that is dedicated for the more health conscious consumer that they sell these products to. Same price, but different marketing for two different markets. Why? Because healthy people don’t go to the candy shelf, and candy people don’t go to the healthy shelf.

Hmm, interesting, no? I think it is. I have seen healthy work when done properly. Once you put that healthy bar in your junk food vending machine it is now junk food, and only worth as much. Now, put that product into your dedicated healthy vending machine and charge a little bit more. I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised. New products, new mindset, higher margins and minimal exposure. You’re using a machine to market your product.

We have helped a few vending operators move towards this trend. We start by repurposing an old snack machine that it is in their back room. We refresh the machine, add “Healthy Vending” graphics, and as much technology as  we can. It is then deployed into an existing location, next to their junk food machine. For some, it just sort of works.  For others, it’s a hit. Remember, not all customers are candidates for a successful healthy program.

The vendors that this works for have moved forward to new Healthy Vendors to capitalize on technology. For those that it has not, they strip off the graphics of their converted machine and use it once again in their junk food route.  No harm, no foul.    

If you would like more information on healthy vending and if it would work for you, just give us a call.


1 thought on “Healthy Vending Machines – Yea or nay?”

  1. Bill,

    Love your article on Heathy Vending and so impressed with your marketing knowledge and creativity. Healthy vending for me at AT&T was a bag of peanuts and that was it. The concept of healthy vending has been there for a long time and to see it still at a development stage is incredulous to me. I retired in 2001 and healthy food in a vending machine was a moonshot and I worked long hours when the cafeteria was closed and had the vending machine blues to deal with. You are on a good track of getting your customers to take a chance where you have little to lose and more to gain, the old win-win. I know one thing, a healthy vending machine in the White House would not succeed. I am also one of those few people who go to the candy and the health food aisle, you know a weirdo.


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