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Would Timers Help Leisure Centre Vending?

Would Timers Help Leisure Centre Vending?

Scientists in the US have come up with some surprising data regarding vending machine habits and how people can be encouraged to make healthier choices. The research has also prompted an interesting question: should timers be placed on vending machines in order to help people avoid purchasing unhealthy foods? Given that we're involved in the sport vending business, we would want to know whether timers would help leisure centre vending.

As reported by the Telegraph, researchers in the States conducted a trial using vending machines that had been fitted with special timers. When customers attempted to purchase chocolate bars or other unhealthy snacks, the timer would start. Customers were forced to wait 25 seconds to get their selected snacks. During that time, they could opt for something else to immediately end the wait. If customers chose a healthy snack from the onset, the timer would not be activated.

Researchers conducted the test over 14 months and found a 5% increase in the purchase of healthy snacks. There was no adverse effect on overall sales, suggesting that customers were still buying the same volume but just changing their choices.

Mandatory Vending Timers

British obesity campaigners have seized on the research in order to suggest timers should be made compulsory on all UK vending machines. According to the Telegraph, vending machines here dispense upwards of 7 billion items every year worth approximately £1.5 billion in profits.

Here at Nutrivend, we contribute to those totals with a very strong leisure centre vending business. The idea of timers sounds interesting for the purposes of encouraging people to make healthy choices, but the kind of vending we are involved in is already geared toward healthy choices.

Our leisure centre vending strategy is one of offering customers things like sports drinks and protein bars. We target customers looking for healthy and nutritional options before, during and after their exercise programmes. Timers would only make sense for us if some of our clients requested less healthy snacks in their machines.

There Is a Downside

If anything is to come of this call for mandatory timers, we hope rule makers move slowly and think things through. Why? Because there is a downside to this technology. If people can be prompted to make more healthy choices via a simple timer, they might also be prompted to choose more expensive items simply because they do not want to wait.

It's not reasonable to assume that the results observed in the US study are based solely on people rethinking their choices based on health concerns. It is more likely they just didn't want to wait 25 seconds. We can easily see vending machine companies taking advantage of that impatience as a means of getting customers to spend more than they otherwise would.

Timers probably would not help those of us involved in leisure centre vending. But environments in which vending machines offered both healthy and unhealthy selections, perhaps the timers could be of some benefit.


Telegraph –

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