Vending redefined: The rise of healthy vending machines

Vending redefined: The rise of healthy vending machines

Friday, October 5, 2018
/ By:
Anja Mikic

WELL Concepts
healthy vending machine

The rise of healthy vending machines

Sara Roberts was at the bedside of her father in a hospital when she went on a search for a snack. Being that it was 3:00 am, the only food available was from a vending machine. There were no healthy choices despite a nearby poster that read “diabetes and obesity kill.” This juxtaposition, and her personal journey to wellness, drew Sara to the vending industry, an industry that hasn’t seen innovation or revolution in many years. 

healthy nibbles vending machinesSara’s inspiration resulted in the creation of Healthy Nibbles, UK’s award-winning healthy snack service company, offering delivery through vending, snack boxes, wholesale and white label. Her vending machines are not only stocked with healthy snacks but also provide full nutritional and allergen information prior to purchase, are energy-efficient and accessible to all. Customers can even use the vending machine’s search function to find products that suit their dietary requirements.

Healthy vending is on the rise and bridging the gap between healthy buildings and wellness programs. In addition to challenging traditional vending ideas, this trend is a catalyst for a larger discussion around employee nutritional well-being. Healthy vending machines help eliminate micro food deserts and enable access to healthier foods in places where food choices are especially limited. Given that they take up a small amount of space, the machines are a relatively easy solution to accommodating food allergies and food preferences by providing a range of speciality products. The versatility of vending machines also allows them to be placed just about anywhere, including offices, hospitals, fitness facilities, airports and schools.


Meeting WELL Requirements

Healthy vending machines help projects meet several WELL nourishment requirements. For example, refrigerated machines can accommodate fresh fruits and vegetables and support customizable meal options. Beyond healthy snacks and refrigeration capacity, the vending industry continues to be transformed by technological advances. Innovative companies like Chowbotics are turning to robotics to help make nutritious food convenient and delicious. Chowbotics’ Sally the Robot allows users to create custom salads and bowls with more than 22 ingredients and over 1000 combinations, along with full nutritional information per ingredient and precise portions.


The Future of Vending  sally vending machine

Vending companies are anticipating a time where individuals can download the nutritional information of their purchases to wearables and apps, helping track their daily intakes and food consumption. Though many vending machines are already energy efficient, the products are often not as sustainable as the machines. The good news is that we’re seeing more options for sustainable packaging, including biodegradable, compostable or plastic-free packaging. Beyond machines, micro-markets that utilize self-checkout technology are rapidly growing in demand and presence. These markets offer a wider selection of foods and beverages and are often conveniently located.

Sara Roberts did not initially think much of her late-night encounter with a vending machine but thanks to her efforts and a growing wave of innovative ideas, healthy vending is revolutionizing the way we buy snacks, get access to healthy food and make informed food choices on a daily basis.

Anja Mikic joins the International WELL Building Institute™ with a strong background in nutrition and obesity research. She ​supports the Standard Development team in the continuous development of the WELL Building Standard™ and leads initiatives exploring how the built environment impacts dietary behaviors.