Fruit Snacks Enjoying Growth Spurt as Vending Machines Get Healthier

Fruit Snacks Enjoying Growth Spurt as Vending Machines Get Healthier

Food & Drink

Fruit Snacks Enjoying Growth Spurt as Vending Machines Get Healthier

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By Cari Martens

The next time you approach the vending snack machine for your fix of chips or candy, you may be surprised that healthier alternatives, especially fruit choices, are outnumbering the traditional junk foods.

It’s certainly happening in America’s schools. With the federal and state governments poised to further regulate nutrition standards, not only will school meals be changing, the a la carte and vending machines will be impacted as well.

In some states – notably New York and California – changes are already underway. Food manufacturers have had to develop healthier vending items just to stay competitive.

In New York, the man in charge of filling the school vending machines is John Murn with The Answer Group. Quoted in a story by Monica Eng in the Chicago Tribune, Murn said he believes that if the machines sell healthy foods, they can raise much-needed cash for schools while establishing good eating habits among the students. In May, the company tested 10 refrigerated fruit machines in middle schools and high schools in the Bronx, Queens and Manhattan. ‘I wasn’t sure the kids were going to eat the fruit but on the first day we sold out of watermelon and mango slices.

Vending changes are happening beyond the school corridors. In March, President Obama signed into law a bill that requires operators with more than 20 vending machines to post calorie information for the foods and beverages they sell near their machine’s selection buttons. The FDA has a year to determine how to implement the regulations.

Manufacturers Respond

Del Monte Fresh Produce Co. has launched a line of bananas and other fresh-cut fruit and vegetables packaged specifically for vending, as well as a branded dual-temperature machine for them. The dual-temperature vender permits the bananas to be held at ambient temperature while fresh-cut products are refrigerated. Del Monte also plans to offer the new product line to operators for sale through their existing equipment. Recommended vend prices range from $1 to $2.25.

The fresh-cut products, in portion sizes ranging from 4-oz. to 6-oz., also include pineapple chunks, grapes, apple slices, baby carrots, celery and tomatoes. Some are paired with light dips, and all contain 120 calories or less.

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