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“There’s an image that this group didn’t know which end of a pan to pick up. That’s not true. They shop a lot, they cook as much as their parents did and they entertain with food. They’re the foodies.”
— Jon Miller, professor, University of Michigan
Healthy Vending Machines
When healthy vending machines first started appearing amid the soda and candy dispensers, there were good intentions but also many question marks surrounding them. Would consumers actually opt for a rice cake over a chocolate bar?
It turns out they will — and they’ll keep coming back. Companies like HUMAN Healthy Vending Machines are rapidly expanding their footprint, making them one of the few bright spots in the $11.7 billion vending market.
Since 2010, HUMAN has expanded from 300 machines to more than 1,500. CEO Sean Kelly attributes much of this growth to the success of the natural and organic industry, with the awareness and better-for-you appeal of brands like Cascadian Farm and Barbara’s Bakery helping the company establish a foothold in schools, fitness centers and offices. Last month, HUMAN inked a deal to become the exclusive vending provider for the YMCA. Products in the machines replace soda with unsweetened iced tea and chocolate with nutrition bars.
Technology has also helped drive the market forward, with machines that feature touchscreens, cashless payment systems, remote stock monitoring and more. According to market research firm Packaged Facts, innovations like these make the fixtures themselves more appealing. No more pulling levers or digging for loose change.
“We’re really trying to bring the vending machine up to speed with the 21st century,” said Kelly.