Supermarkets Should Test School Vending

Articles
August 18, 2010

Supermarkets Should Test School Vending

The technologies that people take for granted in supermarkets haven’t made it to the vast majority of vending machines.

The technologies that people take for granted in supermarkets haven’t made it to the vast majority of vending machines. If supermarkets spearheaded such a move – and entered the vending business with state-of-the-art machines – they could do wonders for their own branded business expansion and for the betterment of school nutrition.

Think about how supermarkets could load these machines with good-for-you food (including perishables in refrigerated units), and place them in schools so kids have worthwhile choices throughout the day. The Lempert Report sees great opportunity here for units to accept debit cards as payment, and assign frequent cardholder points to the students’ households after each purchase. The units would be within the same neighborhoods as their stores, and could be serviced and restocked without much operational complexity; inventories could be monitored electronically to help minimize out-of-stocks.

This would represent incremental, high-margin growth for store operators willing to invest in these units. Families would support it as a logical extension of their weekly purchases at the supermarket – especially if they earned frequent shopper points, and if the vending machines themselves were merchandised with sales, weekly specials and new items to generate more interest.

Supermarkets could apply all of this expertise – if only they began to view school food as a viable market. Stores already work with town officials, so they should figure out how to work with school boards to make arrangements feasible.

With federal energies behind a potential revolution in school food cafeterias, supermarkets could play a supportive role in smarter childrens’ food choices throughout the school day, be appreciated for it by their parents, and add to the value of their brand within the communities they serve. They’ll decide (perhaps with school officials) if some vending slots also go to junk food, but the greater presence of nutritious food when kids need to be alert builds on the natural expertise of supermarkets, and looks like a clear win to us at The Lempert Report.