GAITHERSBURG, MD — Sodexho USA has enhanced its new Wellness & You, On The Go vending program for healthcare institutions by adding prominently-displayed dietary information in Spanish as well as English, in recognition of the diversity of its customer base in these locations.
The healthy vending program, complete with the new bilingual nutritional information informing patrons about their dietary options, is now fully implemented at Harris County Hospital District in Houston, the largest vending site within Sodexho’s healthcare division. The program is also up and running at several other healthcare facilities across the U.S., and Sodexho plans to implement Wellness & You On The Go across the board at some 500 vending accounts it serves in the healthcare sector.
“Harris County Hospital District is excited about this partnership with Sodexho that has allowed our vision for wellness to become a reality,” said Johnnie Stein, associate administrator for the institution. “We are now able to focus on not only patient health, but employee health as well, and have also been able to use these vending machines as teaching tools among our health educators.”
According to John Loughran, Sodexho director of vending – healthcare services, the majority of the feedback received from hospitals participating in the program has been overwhelmingly positive and, on average, “same-store” sales have increased 26% when the wellness-oriented vending program was instituted.
“Awareness of wellness seems to be at an all-time high, and we believe that the vending industry needs to step up and deliver for concerned consumers, the way other markets have,” Loughran told VT. “We created the program to respond to the growing desire for ‘healthier’ products; if you read the paper or watch the news, it’s what people are talking about and it’s our obligation to offer it.
“We were unsure of what the results would be – whether people would truly choose the better-for-you items,” he added. “It turns out that Wellness & You On The Go has far exceeded what we expected. It proves there are a lot of customers who make good choices when they’re offered.”
He attributes the program’s success not only to the carefully selected product mix featured in the machines, but to the signage informing patrons of the availability of better-for-you items and tags that highlight specific items conforming to the program’s criteria.
Wellness & You, On The Go vending, launched last March in conjunction with National Nutrition Month, offers a wide variety of “healthy” snacks, beverages and cold foods that adhere to detailed health guidelines based on recommendations such as the FDA’s Food Guide Pyramid and authoritative statements from the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, and approved by registered dietitians of Sodexho.
In every Wellness & You On The Go machine, at least 20% of products meet the program’s nutritional criteria. In many locations, venders are stocked with a far greater percentage of these products. Loughran reported that some machines filled entirely with the better-for-you items have been successful.
In order to be considered for the “healthy” vending program, a snack must provide 200 or less calories per serving, have no more than 35% calories from fat, be low in saturated fat, contain zero grams of trans fat, contain no more than 360 mg. of sodium, and have at least one g. of dietary fiber. A snack can also be included in the program if it meets at least four of those criteria and also delivers at least 10% of the Food & Drug Administration’s Daily Value of one or more major nutrients such as Vitamins A, C, and E, iron, calcium, protein and fiber.
Examples of “healthy” snacks stocked in Wellness & You, On The Go machines include Frito-Lay Baked Lays, Baked Doritos and Rold Gold pretzels, General Mills Nature Valley granola bars, Kellogg Nutri-Grain and Special K bars, Kraft Nabisco 100 Calorie Snack Packs, Kar Nut Products Kar’s raisins, nuts and trail mix, Dole Fruit Packs, Welch’s Fruit Snacks and fat-free popcorn.
“The manufacturers need to continue to give us products we can promote as healthy,” Loughran said. “We keep going back to the manufacturers, and we’re working with them to try to keep the products coming to meet the demand.”