New Study: Healthy Vending Makes Money

Sep 12, 2014 by

New Study: Healthy Vending Makes Money

By Dorsol Plants, Outreach Specialist

Friday, September 12, 2014

“I don’t sell healthier food because no one would buy it.” How many times has that been said across the food deserts of America? – This idea that there aren’t healthy choices because people don’t want them. Yet, is there any actual truth to it? It turns out that the city of Chicago decided to put that idea to the challenge, and the results aren’t what you might imagine.

Every city in America is dotted with vending machines, and for many kids, they can be the most reliable source for a snack during the day. Many cities over the last couple of years have made efforts to switch out the contents of their machines with healthier choices. Chicago was one city to make these steps and a recent study by Northwestern University set out to see if making the change had impacted their sales.

There are a number of ways to determine how the snacks had an impact, and the first would be the most obvious – just ask the people who consume them. What the study found was that 90% of the people using the machines said they were satisfied with the selection. Of course, when put on the spot, people might want to say something positive; so what really matters is just how much money they spend. When it came to what people chose to buy, vending machines with healthier options jumped from $84 to $371 in sales per machine in a month. It was clear people wanted healthier choices, and will make them if they are given the opportunity.

The Chicago study identified the major barrier to more healthy vending was not sales decline, but the vendors supporting the vending machine weren’t following the guidelines correctly. The district in Chicago had to take a hands on approach with their vendor to make sure they were sticking to the healthy guidelines, and insure everything put in their machines fit the new standard. Now, other vendors in Chicago are rushing to increase their options after seeing how well sells have done.

Here in King County, we have found a number of successes on similar fronts. King County has developed a healthy vending policy, and works to continue to improve the quality of food available in their machines. Recently, Youngstown; a major community organization and building in Seattle, after years of request for access to snacks put in place a 100% healthy machine and has had amazing success with it.

The truth is, people DO want healthier options in convenient locations where they work, learn, play and worship – the trick is demonstrating demand and profitability to the vendors that provide these snacks and beverages. Businesses and organizations that house these vending machines in break and waiting rooms can help encourage vendors by writing healthy standards into their contracts, or by contracting with vendors known for selling healthy products.

Here at the Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition, we will continue to strive to improve the options available to every member of our community. If you’re interested in increasing the healthy options in your vending machines, visit our healthy vending page or contact us at info@copcwa.org.

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