ITHACA, NY -- Students do not mind buying healthier snacks from vending machines, according to research published in the International Journal of Food Safety, Nutrition and Public Health.
Researchers at Ithaca College carried out an experiment on two campus vending machines in which they swapped out high sugar, salt and fat snacks for healthier options and then surveyed 200 students on their satisfaction and perceptions regarding the snacking options. No promotions or incentives were used to entice students to purchase the healthier options and the foods sold were not labeled as healthier.
The key finding was that sales from the vending machines did not decline when healthier options were added. Moreover, when made aware of the changes, students said they were happy to have purchased those options and the more athletic among them felt it was a positive change.
"Results offer insights for promoting healthier choices and suggest that improving the healthiness of vending machine selections can serve all stakeholders: consumers, companies and institutions," the researchers concluded.
The study compared college students' perceptions and self-reported behavior regarding the food in vending machines before and after replacing a portion of the conventional food items with healthier foods, defined as having fewer calories (less than 400 calories for snacks and cereals, and less than 150 calories for candies); limited added sugar (less than 5g.); lower fat (less than 3g. per serving), healthier fats, no trans fats, no artificial colors or flavors, and lower sodium (less than 140mg. per serving).