John Whitlock is Project Analyst with Compass Group North America, though he is informally referred to as “Avenue C Champion.” Avenue C is a micro-market concept, where beverages, snacks and even meals are available in an open kiosk rather than a traditional vending machine. Whitlock operates out of Lafayette and covers mid-central Indiana. (Read the full story in BizVoice.)
Indiana Chamber: Has there been a recent evolution in the vending industry with more focus on the health-conscious consumer?
Whitlock: With the health regulations coming in for grade school children, when this generation grows up, they’re not going to be looking for the Mt. Dew and Snickers bar. The younger generation is already starting to snack healthier. We also handle university settings and without making any real effort, the healthier options sell much better on campuses.
One of the misconceptions is that the vending industry has been reluctant to go to the healthier options, and it’s really not the case. It’s market-driven. While the number of people who want baked Cheetos has increased significantly, that number still doesn’t compare to the demand for regular Cheetos.
IC: What are the hurdles for offering fresher, healthier options, like fruit and sandwiches?
JW: We’ve found that people tend to shy away from fresh food out of a vending machine. If you have a vending machine with an apple in it, people are reluctant to buy that apple because they can’t look at it and touch it. The Avenue C concept addresses that issue.
Avenue C is expanding very quickly. It is the most current thing in vending. In the past eight months, we have had just shy of 100% growth. The projection between now and the end of our fiscal year, which is October 1, we’ll be close to an additional 50% growth on top of what we already had.
IC: What vending innovations are on the horizon?
JW: Smartphone technology. We’re in the process of implementing it here in this area. We’ve had our pilot programs already start. We’re adding QR barcodes to the vending machines. With a smartphone you can scan the barcode and then gain nutritional information through an app on your phone.