A San Diego-based vending company launched a healthy vending machine concept a year ago that includes fresh fruits and vegetables.
A San Diego-based vending company launched a healthy vending machine concept a year ago that includes fresh fruits and vegetables.

In its first year, Fresh Healthy Vending has installed 800 of its non-traditional vending machines with 70% of them going into schools to provide students with more nutritious snack options, including fresh fruits and vegetables.

The San Diego company is now in talks with schools in San Diego. Healthy Vending chief executive officer Jolly Backer hopes to place 500 machines across the country in the next two years. The machines would not be handled by a franchisee but would remain company-owned, Backer said, explaining that he wants to expand the company in a variety of directions.

“We are looking more at expanding into hospitals and shopping malls,” Backer said.

Since its launch in June 2010, Fresh Healthy Vending concentrated its efforts on schools, health clubs and YMCAs. The company started with 12 employees and now has 26.

The Fresh Healthy machines are filled with fruit juices, granola bars, dried fruit products, baked chips, fruit smoothies and other snacks. The lineup currently includes ready-to-eat snack packs of Earthbound Farm carrots and sliced apples, according to the website at www.freshvending.com.

“The apples are the top selling item among the fresh produce,” said Maria Truong, general manager.

Truong said the company had considered including whole apples and other hand fruits, but concern about uncertain shelf life and bruising when the fruit dropped to the machines’ access slots upon purchase have ruled out those items for now.

“We wanted to make sure there was no question about freshness,” Truong said. “With the ready-to-eat packaged apples and carrots we know the items have been washed and there is a ‘best by’ date so customers know it’s fresh.”

Backer and Truong credited first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign and increasing societal awareness about childhood obesity for helping their business grow quickly during its first year.

“This is just the right time,” Backer said. “There are mandates out there that say we need to be eating healthy food and this is one way to do that.”