Bowling Green man offers alternatives to typical snacks in vending machines

By Justin Story, The Daily News
Wednesday, November 9, 2011 9:51 AM CST

Chances are you do it without even thinking – you drop your coins or put your dollar in the vending machine, press a couple of buttons and out pops a chocolate bar, a soda or a bag of chips that you know can’t be good for you, but you know will also satisfy your craving for something sweet or salty.

Andrew Koon of Bowling Green wanted to introduce some alternatives to such empty calories, so he became a franchisee with Fresh Healthy Vending.

“It’s the middle of the day, you’re hungry and need a salt fix or a sugar fix, you look at what’s in the vending machine, you settle for something and you’re not really pleased you ate it,” Koon said, talking about what sets the vending machine company, which sells healthier snacks, apart from the standard machines. “With Fresh Healthy, you don’t mind eating whatever you pick because you know it’s better for you.”

Formed last year in San Diego, Fresh Healthy Vending offers franchise packages in which the franchisee and the company work to find suitable locations for machines to be placed in the franchisee’s region.

Options in Fresh Healthy Vending machines include healthy smoothies and yogurts, fresh fruit juices, baked chips, granola bars, fruit snacks and several brands of energy drinks, teas and waters.

In addition to coins and dollars, the machines accept credit and debit cards.

By the time Koon became a franchisee in August, the company claimed more than 800 vending machines had been placed across the country, including in cities such as Nashville, Washington, D.C., Kansas City, Mo., Detroit and St. Louis.

In Bowling Green, Fresh Healthy Vending machines can be found at the Barren River District Health Department, Owl’s Head Alloy, Bowling Green Athletic Club’s Nashville Road facility, Greenwood Nursing and Rehab, Kobe Aluminum and Bowling Green High and Junior High schools.

A Bowling Green native who played football at Western Kentucky University, Koon is now the president of Venture Vending LLC. He jumped at the chance to become a franchisee.

Koon said he is a strong supporter of the company’s mission of making the public aware of healthier snack options that might eventually lead to healthier overall eating habits.

“I was trying to get in on the ground floor of a movement, and I saw how much Fresh Healthy Vending had grown in a short period of time,” Koon said. “Plus, it was something we didn’t have and something I knew Bowling Green needed.”

As a franchisee, Koon checks in on his vending machines every two or three days and is responsible for stocking and maintaining them. He remotely monitors how much money people spend at the machines each day.

Facilities hosting a Fresh Healthy Vending machine typically receive a 15 percent commission on sales, according to the company’s website.

Koon said the vending machines in the schools appear to be getting the most attention, though most of the vending machines on school grounds are off limits to students until after school hours.

“A lot of students and parents who are in our schools have been pleased to see there is that opportunity to purchase the healthy snacks there in the building,” said Bowling Green Independent Schools Superintendent Joe Tinius.

Koon has been working on expanding his base, adding machines at locations in Glasgow and Fort Campbell, and he hopes to introduce the machines to more Bowling Green locations.

“We’re trying to do our part getting healthier items out in the community,” Koon said.