NEW YORK CITY -- New York City's Department of Health and the vending industry have established a stronger working relationship, according to the National Automatic Merchandising Association. Officials from NAMA and the New York State Automatic Vending Association met in July with Health Department Deputy Commissioner Andrew Goodman to open the lines of communication.
Top on the agenda was Mayor Bloomberg's executive order setting strict standards for food, snack and beverage vending machines on city property. The standards, which went into effect in December, were promoted by Health Department fliers that contained prominent language suggesting that locations "decide whether vending machines are necessary and consider removing machines if possible."
New York City Food Vending Machine Standards
New York City Beverage Vending Machine Standards
"While we understand the intentions of New York City legislators, removing vending machines is flat-out wrong," said NAMA chief operating officer Dan Mathews. "Hundreds of local vending-related jobs and an entire industry would be at risk. We wanted to ensure that decision makers hear our voice to prevent government involvement in an issue of this magnitude."
As a result of the meeting, according to Mathews, the city agency agreed to review metrics and trends related to healthier vend choices in New York City. The deputy commissioner expressed interest in obtaining sales data related to healthy products in both small and large vending operations, as well as the effectiveness of using price differentials for healthier vending items.
Along the same lines, NAMA suggested that the city consider modifying its RFPs for vending contracts. One option industry officials put forward is basing vending contracts on the percentage of healthier items carried or sold rather than on strict dollar amounts, as well as adjusting commissions and maximizing the use of price differentials for healthier items.
"Both NAMA and NYSAVA are recognized resources that NYCDOH officials may consult with before undertaking regulations that impact vending," Mathews said. "This is great news for our industry, because we need to have a seat at the table when these critical issues are being debated."
At the table with Mathews were NAMA government affairs executives Sheree Edwards and Pam Gilbert, and leading operators from the area, including NYSAVA president Brian Gill, Next Generation Vending (Canastota, NY), and John and Tom Murn, Answer Vending Inc. (Bellerose, NY).
The Murns demonstrated how larger operations, like Answer Vending and Next Generation, are using technology to track sales of healthy items, and they shared some of their company's sales data. Gill explained how smaller operators can use programs like NAMA's Fit Pick, a set of nutritional guidelines, at vending machines.
"We want to avoid regulations that would have a negative impact on vending at any level," Edwards summed up. "Pressuring private businesses to conform to the standards -- or suggesting that vending be eliminated altogether -- is not the way to get consumers to make better choices. Vending is a retail channel linked to an economy of small businesses, jobs and valuable revenue sources; and second, with a market as large as New York City, the NYCDOH has a responsibility to consider the unintended consequences of their regulations."