Canadian Vending

Features Consumer Behaviour Trends
Putting The Squeeze On


June 17, 2008
By Karen Hall

Topics

Michael Harford is putting a healthy squeeze on the beverage market with his fresh orange juice vending machines.

Michael Harford is putting a healthy squeeze on the beverage market with his fresh orange juice vending machines.

According to Harford, owner of 3M and Sons in Toronto, these self-cleaning machines hold 300 oranges each and produce approximately 90 eight-ounce glasses of orange juice.

“People love the machines and they love the juice,” he said. “I like to use Valencia oranges because they’re a juice orange and they’ve got a great taste. I charge $2 a cup and there are no seeds or rind.”

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The refrigerated machines carry the oranges along a conveyor belt where they are then sliced and squeezed. The rind is pushed away and dropped into a garbage bag.

Tammy Thompson, a public health nutritionist with the Region of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ont., thinks the freshly squeezed machines are a great idea, and hopes the idea catches on.

“I think there is a perception that food which tends to be higher calorie and less nutrient-dense tastes better,” she said. “But public health is currently in the process of going to different places – work sites and schools – and getting people to make changes in their vending machines to offer healthier food choices. So I would like to say that the interest (in the orange juice vending machines) will be high.”

Gilles Cloutier, a public health dietitian with the City of Ottawa Public Health, also thinks the vending machines are a good idea, and added that from a purely nutritional point of view, freshly squeezed orange juice is excellent.

“Because it’s a premium product, people won’t be chugging it,” he said. “They’ll taste it and appreciate it. And savouring food is something dietitians recommend.”

Harford owns the North American rights to the machines, which are manufactured by Spain-based Zummo. He first got into this business in 2001 when he was living in Tampa, Fla. A friend of his was doing some work with coffee vending machines and told Harford about the orange juice vending machines.

squeeze
“I was interested in the health aspect,” he said. “Oranges have everything positive in them – vitamin C, potassium, etc., and I thought it was a pretty good idea because they didn’t exist anywhere in North America at the time. I brought one over from Spain and tried it out in a number of places, including Bally Total Fitness. It worked out really well and it was selling 150 juices a day there.”

But because there were already Coca-Cola and Pepsi vending machines located at the gym, Harford was asked to remove his.

He then realized it was a “workable product” and bought four more machines from Zummo. He located them in different places in Florida, including a mall, beach areas, and another gym. The machines did well and a couple people became interested in owning them and bought them from Harford.

He moved to Toronto at the end of 2003 and decided to purchase more machines from Zummo.

“My idea was not to really invest in them for myself because they are very expensive ($15,000 each),” he said. “So I bought them and sold them to a number of places. I’ve kept a few machines for myself just to show people how they work.”

There are currently nine machines in the Toronto area, with Harford owning five of them. His are located in cafes, restaurants, and a racquet club.

According to Harford, his goal at first was to get the vending machines into schools, and especially universities. But after attempting to do just that, as well as movie theatres, government buildings and Canada’s Wonderland, he realized it was not going to be easy. And it was the same thing he had run up against at Bally in Florida.

“Many places are controlled by Coke or Pepsi,” he said. “So I find it very difficult to get the machines into the bigger places because they are there every turn I make. But we don’t take away from Coke or Pepsi’s sales because there are people who drink those and there are people who drink fresh juice.”

According to Thompson, it’s important for consumers to have a few options to choose from when it comes to vending machines.

“Bottled water, lower fat milk (two per cent or less) and juices should definitely be available,” she said. “And I’m not talking about fruit punches. I mean real juices like orange juice and juices without sugar added.”
Cloutier agreed with Thompson and said, from a hydration point of view, water is best.

“But products that are 100 per cent real fruit juices are also a good option,” he said. “However, the size of what’s sold is an issue. There is a trend towards larger sizes of healthier 100 per cent juices. But juices are very concentrated forms of nutrition and in general, most nutritionists would not recommend the larger bottles unless they’re going to be shared or consumed over a full day. But his (Harford’s) serving size is quite reasonable.”

Cloutier added that it’s great to see healthy products becoming available through the vending channel.
“A lot of vending in the past promoted products that might not be considered to be totally healthy,” he said. “It used to be that healthy vending was an oxymoron, but now more and more we’re finding it can exist and it can be a really important part of a product line.”