Vending company brings healthy choices to schools
Jennifer Yano and her partner, Teresa Szafranowicz, are betting on Popchips over Doritos and fig bars and fruit strips over candy bars.
Yano and Szafranowicz, founders of Tri Co Healthy Vending, last year purchased six vending machines from Human Healthy Vending of Culver City, Calif. The machines feature nutritious snacks and low-calorie drinks and fruit juices rather than typical vending machine fare such as sodas and candy bars.
The vending machines range in cost from $6,000 to $10,000 depending on features such as LCD screens and cashless pay systems. Yano and Szafranowicz placed their machines at four locations: one at Galena High School; two at Hug High; two at Billinghurst Middle School; and another at Baring Boulevard Veterinary Hospital.
The vending routes were established in March of 2013, and the duo is looking at breaking even on their investment in two years. Yano says the biggest difficulty has been getting kids to overcome their penchant for sugary drinks and treats and to snack healthy.
“Kids really welcome it, and once they have tried it and see that healthy doesn’t mean yucky they will buy up anything,” she says.
The duo learned that switching their offerings up boosts business. Other vending items include squeezable applesauce, Goldfish crackers, Cliff bars and Nature Valley granola bars.
“The difficulty is finding snacks that will vend and fit that healthy model,” Yano says.
Summer and holiday breaks also have been difficult to overcome since the machines are idle during those times. Their heaviest sales occur when sports begin at the high schools during the fall and winter.
Yano and Szafranowicz plan on expanding the Human Healthy Vending concept to additional schools and businesses, as well as trying to enter regional hospitals with the end goal of building a successful vending business their kids can take over.
“We want to get into as many places as possible and hopefully in turn they will pay for our kids’ college and they can work it,” Yano says.
Among the grants, Churchill and Douglas counties each received $20,000 to conduct business attraction activities (Churchill) and to complete a regional market analysis and marketing strategy (Douglas).