Jeremy Phillips and his dad Glenn have an idea they think people in New Paltz and the rest of the Hudson Valley are ready to embrace — the healthy vending machine. Both men work full-time — Jeremy as the district manager for a rental car service and Glenn as an airline pilot — but they were looking for something to do on the side. They also wanted to do something that might curb the epidemic of childhood obesity. They bought five vending machines, placing them in Poughkeepsie and New Paltz, and filling them with Clif Bars, pistachios, Penta water and chips fried in avocado oil.
“I think the biggest surprise for us was that ‘healthy’ tasted good,” Jeremy said. “We were like, ‘Wow. These products actually taste good.’ And if people know that, then I think they would eat healthier. I think most people make the assumption that ‘healthy’ tastes bad.”
In the battle to keep Americans thin, junk food and sodas sold in vending machines have come under fire. New York City’s soda ban passed in September, outlawing restaurants and concessionaires from selling sugary drinks larger than 16 oz.
“Everything is all-natural or organic. You won’t find Snickers bars or things like that in the machines — or M&M’s,” Glenn said. “We also thought this could be something good we could help people with. Kids especially these days, they have a real problem with obesity.”
Stepping away from sugar-coated sugars emblazoned with artificial dyes is easy when you look at the nutrition labels. What’s in the Phillips’s machines have fewer calories and are high in nutrition. “It’s good to make that move.”
From a technical standpoint, the Internet age is helping out vending machine owners in ways most customers probably don’t realize.
“We found a machine where in the morning I can get up, or we can get up, we can look online, download a file and find out what all of our machines have done,” Glenn said. “So we say, ‘Maybe I should go over here today — we’re out of Pirate’s Booty.’”
Vending machine crews used to make the rounds during the week to restock the machines, often guessing at what they might need to bring with them. These machines — like the one at the bus station in New Paltz — report back all sales information and inventory changes.
“The convenience of having that capability — of just being able to see what’s there — that makes it really nice too,” he said. “The technology has really helped. Plus, they’re state-of-the-art. They’re very energy-efficient machines. The only refrigeration is on the drinks.”
Recently, the father and son were startled to discover that customers had made a run on their Clif Bars — emptying nearly the entire machine. But with the kind of information they get back, their company, HV Healthy Vending, can be prepared for that kind of thing.
To learn more about the business, head to www.hvhealthyvending.com or call them at 857-4582.