VIRGINIA BEACH, VA — The Navy Exchange Service Command always has taken pride in supporting its customers, whatever their needs. When those customers expressed interest in healthier lifestyles, NEXCOM’s vending department responded with a “Healthier Alternatives” initiative.
That happened long before the current upswing in health concerns. NEXCOM launched the “Healthier Alternatives” program in 1993, developing and deploying a number of communications tools that since have become standard in the vending industry.
NEXCOM vending branch manager Gerard Fantano recalls that the organization launched “Healthy Alternatives” years before others in the industry because its military customers recognized the need and required a range of selections appropriate to a wholesome, balanced diet. “The ‘Healthy Alternatives’ program was designed to assist customers in identifying and choosing a snack or food item that is lower in fat, cholesterol, sodium or calories,” he explained.
Patrons can find those items easily by looking for NEXCOM’s “Healthy Alternatives” logo on the shelf labels that identify healthier products in NEX vending machines.
“When the program began 13 years ago, we were really limited in our product selection,” Fantano added. “It consisted mainly of granola bars, cereals, pretzels, popcorn and selected cookies.” Customers appeared to enjoy those items and supported the program from the outset, he said.
As a result, not quite a decade later, “Healthy Alternatives” received reinforcements and entered a new phase. Fantano joined forces with Lori Tubbs, a registered dietitian and public health educator with the Navy Environmental Health Center (NEHC). Working together, they extended the product selection in accordance with nutrition criteria established by the National Academy of Sciences and the Cooper Institute. The vending product line now includes nuts, whole-graincrackers and other snacks, trail mix, beef jerky, breakfast cookies, 100% fruit juices, low-fat and fat-free dairy products, water and diet soft drinks.
In addition to bolstering the vend product menu, Tubbs began educating sailors and Marines about the importance of a good diet and regular exercise in maintaining good health and supporting mission readiness. She also teaches a one-day workshop on Choosing Healthy Options for Wellness (CHOW), at which participants learn basic nutrition guidelines and get an overview of “Healthy Alternatives” and other nutrition initiatives. She also has developed an assessment tool, the “CHOW Appraisal,” to evaluate the nutrition environment on the base and at the worksite. The CHOW program is described at the NavyEnvironmentalHealthCenterwebsite – www-nehc.med.navy.mil/hp (note the hyphen after the “www” prefix) –by visiting /nutrit/chow.htm.
“According to the U.S. Surgeon General and the Department of Health and Human Services, there has been a 50% increase in the incidence of obesity over the past decade alone,” Tubbs emphasized. “In addition, being overweight or obese increases the risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. By educating our military members as well as giving them a healthier choice in the vending machines, we’re giving them the tools they need to make an informed decision on their health.”
The expansion of the vending menu under the reinforced “Healthy Alternatives” program has resulted in a cycle of more than 20 products. More than 1.2 million “Healthy Alternative” items were sold through Navy vending machines in fiscal year 2005.
And NEXCOM’s commitment to healthy choices has extended into other foodservice venues on naval bases as well. Its Food Service Department, which is in charge of food courts and other establishments, also has bolstered menus with an array of salads, yogurt, fruit and other attractive components of a balanced diet. The Navy’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation Division also has expanded the food and beverage options in its venues to include items regarded as healthier.
“It’s all about choice,” Tubbs summed up. “We want our military members to choose their snacks smartly, so they can continue to do the jobs they were trained to do: serving and protecting our country.”
The NEX Vending program is redesigning its vending machine graphics tocreate even more customer awareness of the “Healthy Alternatives” program. “Our goal is to have one sailor or Marine per day make a healthier selection,” Fantano concluded. “Once that happens, we’ve come that much closer to our overall objective.”MOORABBIN, Australia — Interactive Video Media’s WeightZone is an innovative scale designed to encourage repeat usage and provide added income from onscreen advertising. It is ideal for placement in venues such as pharmacies, health clubs, shopping centers and supermarkets.
Occupying only 1 sq.ft. of floor space, IVM’s WeightZone scale provides clear, animated instructions that guide the user through the weigh-in process. The scale issues a PIN to each customer, so when they return for another visit, their weight record card shows up on screen, along with a personalized greeting such as: “Hello Linda Welcome Back.” Each customer record card remains in the system for two years.
The customer’s exact weight is never revealed on the screen. The interactive scale prints out two tickets, one with the user’s weight information, including body mass index, and the other with a weight record and a graph of his or her record from day one.
Customers who lose weight receive a free weigh-in on their next visit. And patrons who have put on weight since their prior visit receive an internationally accepted calorie diet program based on their own weight that, if followed, is said to ensure the customer loses at least one pound a week.
The WeightZone scale features a flat screen for advertising products such as diet drinks, vitamins, health foods, sugarless candies and low-sodium and low-fat products that target the same diet-conscious consumers that regularly patronize the coin-op scales.
WeightZone scales provide four revenue streams: operators profit from cashbox collections as well as from advertising on the video screen, on the back of the tickets it generates for the customer and on the scale body itself.
Each scale has a modem to allow instant changes to advertisements, remote diagnostics and hotspot creation.
The scale’s compressed plastic front folds down to reveal a compact drawer that contains all the components, along with computer, printer, power supply and cashbox.
WeightZone scales ship directly from IVM’s plant in Australia. They are manufactured from Australian and imported parts; close proximity to most Asian markets enables the company to source components at very competitive prices.
According to IVM, the first scales in the U.S. were imported from Germany and appeared in Chicago in 1887. Within 20 years, there were a dozen scale manufacturers throughout the U.S. But names that once were famous, such as Watling, Mills, Pace, Frantz, Peerless American Pioneer, Toledo and Rockola, have since all but disappeared.
One famous scale was manufactured by the late David Rockola, who later introduced the legendary Rockola jukebox. Legend has it that Rockola had a tobacco shop in Chicago in 1929 when one morning a young man asked if he could put a penny scale by his doorway. At the end of the week, the young man came back and emptied the scale and gave him $5, the equivalent of a 60-hour week salary at the Ford Motor Co.
Sold on the coin-op scale’s potential, Rockola sold his tobacco shop within a few weeks and went into manufacturing scales. He continued to produce scales until World War II, when his plant was taken over by the U.S. military to manufacture rifles for the Army and he never made another scale. Rockola’s scales are rare collector’s items today.
According to IVM, only a few companies continue to produce amusement scales, and prices remain at a 25¢ vend because they do nothing more than show the customer’s weight.
The WeightZone justifies a higher vend price through the ongoing weight management services it provides the consumer and its advertising revenue substantially boosts its earning power for the operator.
IVM provides a free training and support program to its operator customers. Full details are available by emailing email@example.com or by visiting ivmaustralia.com.au.CHARLOTTE, NC — Last fall, Brady Distributing Co. launched an initiative to market innovative, family-fun-oriented equipment to music and amusement operators. The company appointed Marty Man Smith, a 25-year coin industry veteran, to head up the new business unit. Nearly a year into the venture, Smith reports that it is widening the industry’s horizon.
Smith, who joined Brady late last year, brought more than 25 years’ industry experience to his new post. While working with Hip Coin (Mississisauga, ON, Canada), he had been responsible for marketing amusement-center products from Fantasy Entertainment and Universal Space. Recognizing the value of these innovative lines to operators in the United States, he approached Brady about taking them on as a master distributor. The distributorship agreed, retaining Smith to cultivate relationships with strong regional distributors and operators around the country.
The lines have a great deal to offer operators, Smith explained, and they have won quick acceptance.
Fantasy Entertainment (Hudson, NH) produces a variety of self-service digital photo booths. Seeking to expand the market to the established coin machine industry, it presently offers four models through the new Brady program.
Foto Fun Strips is a versatile digital implementation of the classic wet-process monochrome direct-positive photo booths that were immensely popular in the immediate postwar era. Like those ancestral machines, Foto Fun Strips gives the patron four poses, but adds value by providing two strips, allowing the customer to choose black and white or color, and offering a choice of optional graphic themes to further personalize the strips. It’s available in upright or “showcase” (sitdown) designs.
Sketch Express is a digital imaging system that produces instant professional-quality sketches. The patron can choose classic portrait or caricature styles, and the machine is able to produce horizontal or vertical prints. Sketch Express also is offered in upright or “showcase” cabinets.
Rounding out the line are Snap Shot and Kodak Sticker Prints upright-cabinet machines. These are being offered to operators at exceptionally low prices, because they feature factory-refurbished cabinetry. Smith explained that the entire electronics package, including computer and printer, are new.
All the digital imaging machines are offered with warranties of one year on computers and printers and 90 days on other electronics, standard in the industry.
The new Brady program also offers two very different products from Universal Space, both primarily designed to please children. The more traditional is a merry-go-round ride, Ocean Carousel, which combines authentic carousel action – not only rotary, but up and down too – with an unusual choice of animal characters to ride: a sea horse, a clown fish and a sea turtle.
Smith noted that the piece impressed him not only because it generates strong, steady earnings, but also because “it works like a tank.” The strapping, 6’3 Brady executive has ridden it, with two other full-sized adults, and it showed no signs of laboring or dragging under the weight. The bottom line is that this unit is overbuilt, and that is how we like it: built to last,” he told VT.
Ocean Carousel is durably constructed of fiberglass, features digital music and attractive illumination, and provides extensive time and coin setting options.
Also enjoying swift market penetration is Bear Train Express, which is not a coin-op piece at all (it requires an attendant) but which fits well with the coin-op model and can yield very substantial revenues.
Smith described the Bear Train Express system as “a ‘make a friend’ custom design unit.” It’s styled like a steam locomotive and tender, and it allows the patron to choose a favorite animal – bear, moose, panda, lion, rabbit, or others – and then personalize it.
Under control of the attendant, the chosen character’s envelope or “skin” is filled and fluffed. The customer then can specify a wide variety of clothing and other accessory items. Software is available to provide each animal with a “passport” establishing its uniqe identity. The cost to the operator of the “skins” is about 20% to 25% of the selling-price of a finished animal, so the margin is extremely attractive. And the startup package contains a large assortment of merchandise: more than 500 “skins” and a variety of accessories.
The system has done exceptionally well,Smith said, not only in family entertainment centers but also in shopping malls and other high-traffic locations frequented by youngsters.
Universal Space is one of Asia’s largest manufacturers of carnival rides, kiddie rides, redemption games and video arcade equipment. It has a Canadian office that specializes in contract manufacturing.
Smith reported that exhibiting at this spring’s Amusement Showcase International (Chicago) had a great impact, as it enhanced operator understanding and built confidence. He predicted that the division will complete its first full year with a volume of sales greater than originally expected.
Buoyed by this strong response, the division is working to expand the line with compatible equipment. Almost ready to launch is Caroubot, a high-tech robotic-themed carousel featuring the same heavy-duty design and authentic merry-go-round action and styled for locations with futuristic themes, and Happy Zoo, made by St. Fun. The latter is a child-oriented redemption game engineered in Taiwan and previewed at the ASI. Its primary appeal is to youngsters from to 12 years old. It features large buttons, each bearing the colorful image of a familiar animal, a sound system, a digital score display and a ticket dispenser. In use, the game emits the sound characteristic of one of the animals, and the young player responds by pressing the key bearing the image of that animal. Success is rewarded with redemption tickets.
“We’re very pleased with the support we are getting from some distributors,” Smith summed up. “There are still a few skeptics out there, but we are winning them over slowly, day by day.”
Information can be had by calling Smith at (662) 429-3429, fax (662) 429-2416, or emailing to firstname.lastname@example.org.USA Technologies, MasterCard, Philly Coke Deploy Tap & Go Contactless-Card Venders
PURCHASE, NY — MasterCard International has teamed up with The Philadelphia Coca-Cola Bottling Co. and USA Technologies to roll out 1,000 “Coca-Cola” vending machines equipped with USAT’s e-Port cashless transaction solution and configured to accept MasterCard’s new PayPass payment medium. The deployment is said to be the largest application of contactless technology to vending machines in the U.S. market.
The landmark rollout follows successful trials of USA Technologies’ e-Port by MasterCard and USAT on vending machines in New York City and Atlanta, GA. USAT’s Generation 6 e-Port radio frequency technology was developed specifically to work with contactless proximity payment systems like PayPass.
“The more than $40 billion U.S. vending industry opens up an entirely new market for payment companies, as we offer consumers a fast and convenient payment method,” said MasterCard International’s T.J. Sharkey, vice-president, Business Development, U.S. Acceptance. “PayPass will help revolutionize the vending industry by providing consumers with new efficiencies and increased transaction revenues, and by giving consumers improved service.”
In use, a cardholder simply taps the PayPass card or other device against the vender’s e-Port payment terminal. Within seconds, the terminal responds with a flashing light and an audio tone signaling that the transaction is complete. As with all MasterCard PayPass transactions under $25, no signature is required for a purchase.
The Philly Coke e-Ports will accept not only PayPass but also conventional magnetic-stripe debit and credit cards.
“Philadelphia Coca-Cola constantly strives to bring superior quality and service to customers,” said Domenic Celenza, vice-president of cold drink sales for The Philadelphia Coca-Cola Bottling Co. “We believe our relationship with MasterCard and USA Technologies will give consumers what they want – greater convenience and ease of use when making purchases at vending machines.”
Stephen P. Herbert, president and chief operating officer of USA Technologies, observed that “It is very exciting to team up with MasterCard and Coca-Cola, two of the world’s leading brands, in this historic deployment of The Philadelphia Coca-Cola Co.’s 1,000 cashless vending machines.”
MasterCard’s Sharkey explained that “We selected USA Technologies for its reputation as a leader in cashless vending, and for its ability to deliver a robust, scalable, turnkey solution for PayPass vending deployments. We applaud Philadelphia Coke as an innovator embracing the latest technology to enhance consumers’ purchasing and brand experiences.”
MasterCard, which has issued more than a billion cards through its family of brands, serves consumers and businesses in more than 210 countries and territories; its cards are accepted at more than 24 million locations. The company maintains a website at mastercardinternational.com.
The Philadelphia Coca-Cola Bottling Co. is the fourth largest distributor of Coca-Cola products nationwide, and runs the single largest bottling complex in North America. It offers 35 beverage choices, and serves 5.6 million consumers. The company’s headquarters and production facilities are situated in the heart of northeast Philadelphia; the company is online at phillycoke.com.
USA Technologies, a leader in the networking of wireless noncash transactions, is an IBM Business Partner and has marketing agreements with Cingular Wireless, Honeywell, MEI and ZiLog Corp.