Canadian Vending

News
From the Editor: Fall 2016

A long-term shift


September 1, 2016
By Maria Church

“Healthy eating I wouldn’t call a trend – it’s a shift in consumer demand.”

This quote, from Ontario dietitian April Saunders, summarizes the driving factor behind the healthy choices program being rolled out by the Canadian Automatic Merchandising Association this fall at its annual conference and trade show. The program – which did not yet have an official name as of print – will give vending operators clear guidelines and tools to implement a healthy options program in their own businesses.

It’s easy to find evidence of shifting consumer demands. We are barraged with healthy messaging from proactive food and beverage companies as well as government, health organizations and not-for-profits. In Canada, heath charities including the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Childhood Obesity Foundation have formed a coalition that is pressuring the federal government to ban food and beverage advertising to children and youth under 18.

Mark Collison, the Heart and Stroke Foundation BC & Yukon’s director of government relations and health promotion, said in an interview with Metro News, “90 per cent of food marketed to children is high in sugar, salt and fat.”

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Concerns about the danger of unhealthy eating are not new, but seemingly the passion and conviction behind the message are getting stronger, and people are taking note. North American media are paying attention to whether or not Mexico’s tax on high-calorie foods, which was implemented in January 2014, will successfully change consumer habits. A preliminary study in the online journal PLOS-Medicine, found that the tax has led to a 5.1 per cent decrease in purchases of the taxed goods, but only in middle- and low-income families.

The Canadian government, too, is pondering its role in healthy eating. In early August, The Canadian Press obtained documents under the Access to Information Act that show Canada’s Minister of Finance, Bill Morneau, requested an internal study into the so-called soda tax. The study, requested last winter, was to determine the pros and cons of a tax on pop as a potential strategy to address obesity. While the spring federal budget did not mention the tax, the study proves Ottawa is considering stronger action on health, regardless of whether or not it’s the right action.

As governments, federal provincial or territorial, continue to consider healthy eating programs and solutions, and media continue to celebrate health foods and beverages, it seems the vending industry needs to keep up or get ahead of the game.

CAMA’s healthy vending program has been in the works for a number of years and is the association’s biggest venture yet (read the full story on page 12). Key to the program is recognition that vending operators still need to turn a profit, and that healthy foods only sell so much. The program will require just 20 per cent of a vending machine’s contents to be considered healthy options according to specific criteria. Those criteria are, quite simply, set maximums based on grams.

Dan Stewart, owner of Savco Food Services in Point Edward, Ont., helped create the CAMA program and says that promotion to both vending clients and their customers is key to successfully implementing a healthy vending program. Once consumers are confident about the machines and what they offer, healthy options can mean additional sales.

As Saunders suggests in her quote, healthy vending is not a passing fad or a fleeting fancy for companies, it’s a proactive measure in response to more and more consumers paying attention to what they eat and drink. And vending operators, if they’re not doing so already, should consider hopping on the low-fat, sugar-free gravy train.