By Alison Lee Satake
During their daughter’s class at Carolina Gymnastics, Brett and Kris Russell noticed a vending machine with healthier snack options than chips and candy bars that sparked an idea for a business venture.
After some research, they found San Diego-based Fresh Healthy Vending, a vending machine company that stocks organic snacks with no artificial flavors or preservatives, and became the first franchisee in Wilmington in mid-July.
“This concept of fresh healthy vending is really booming on the west coast,” said Brett Russell, a new Fresh Healthy Vending franchisee. “It’s starting to branch out on the east coast and we thought that Wilmington would be a good place for a health-lifestyle business to get started here.”
The couple has met with the nutritionist at Brunswick County Schools and spoken with a representative from New Hanover County Schools about installing the new vending machines. They hope to install about 10 bright orange and green machines in local institutions and large employers to offer snacks including soymilk, dried apple slices, vegetable sticks, yogurt and popcorn. The company has a list of about 500 products franchisees can choose from to stock the machines, Russell said.
North Carolina franchisees are currently Charlotte and Raleigh and the Russells are hoping to expand from Wilmington to Jacksonville and Myrtle Beach.
“We’re banking on the fact that there is an ever-growing health conscious population,” and we expect expect to impact the community is by increasing awareness of healthy vending machines and we want the students and parents to know that there are fresh healthy options that taste good,” adds Russell
Childhood obesity is reaching record levels in the United States and many schools are taking action to combat the trend, partnering with programs like First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” initiative. In addition, the United States Senate recently moved to unanimously pass the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act: a $4.5 billion dollar effort to enact sweeping changes in school foodservice.
Jolly Backer, CEO of Fresh Healthy Vending, explained how the machines his company has placed are designed to be successful in the school locations where they are now operating. “We developed the product menus in our machines specifically for the target audiences in the schools that they are placed in. The products all meet or exceed nutrition guidelines, and we have over 500 products for the school market and all are tested to make sure they meet the highest standards. A big part of that development is making sure that we have these machines stocked with foods that kids like. Taste is imperative because kids know what “tastes good” and will always buy their favorites. Just because a food is healthy doesn’t mean it can’t taste good. The kids love our products so much they forget that they are eating healthy alternatives,” Backer added.