Food Marketing News MM_3machines_v3

Published on January 28th, 2014 | by Jennifer Kaplan

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Greenwash Alert: H.U.M.A.N. Healthy Vending

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healthy vending machine

Yesterday, I jumped the gun and wrote favorably about HUMAN Healthy Vending Company. I was wrong. HUMAN Healthy Vending wants you to believe that their products are better and more healthy, but in several cases they are not.

Ever since I wrote a post, Food & Beverage TrendWatch: H.U.M.A.N. Healthy Vending, its been bothering me. In the post I concluded that: I’d like to see more stringent vetting of products (like nix the Vitamin Water) … But, like marketing bottled water to kids, vending machines and snacks are not going away and so ‘healthy’ snacks seem better than the alternative.

Well, selling purportedly ‘healthy’snacks and drinks, like Vitamin Water, which contains artificial coloring and flavoring and almost as much sugar as a sodapop, is not the same as selling bottled water.  Bottled water is troubling because of the packaging not because of the product.  With bottled water no one disputes that the product is better for kids. On the other hand, many of the products sold in HUMAN vending machines are actually no better than then the junk sold in traditional vending machines.  Therein lies the problem. HUMAN Healthy Vending wants kids and adults to believe that their products are better and more healthy. And, in several cases they are not.

In fact, when I tried to download HUMAN’s ‘Product Catalog’, instead they sent me a ‘Healthy Vending Handbook,’ that was a high-pressure sales document and did not contain a product list. Given that their site doesn’t provide a product catalog or list, its hard to tell how many of the 1000 ‘HUMAN-approved’ foods and beverages are unhealthy.  Photographs on the site and the list of top selling items, however, show certifiably unhealthy products such as PopchipsVitamin Water, Gatorade and Muscle Milk.

I would encourage HUMAN to openly publish clear and transparent product quality standards that includes a list of unacceptable ingredients in products and pull any products that do not meet the criteria. I, for one, would like them to pledge to only sell foods that are free of artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, sweeteners, and hydrogenated fats.

So, I have to amend my original statement that HUMAN Healthy Vending is doing good, because they aren’t really. That said, I do believe they have the potential to do good.  They just need to be more selective in the products they carry. Now, let’s see if they will.

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About the Author

Jennifer Kaplan writes regularly about sustainable food and wine, the intersection of food and marketing and food politics for EatDrinkBetter.com and is the author of Greening Your Small Business (November 2009, Penguin Group (USA)). She was been named one of The 16 Women You Must Follow on Twitter for Green Business. She has four kids, a dog, a hamster and an MBA - find her on .



  • Steven

    I am looking at the ingredients for Vitamin Water and do not see any “artificial” colors or flavors??? I do see the terms “natural flavors” and “beta-carotene (color)” Am I missing something?????

    • http://importantmedia.org/members/jkaplan/ Jennifer Kaplan

      Steven, HUMAN jsut let me know that they now only will be selling Vitaminater Zero, but sweetened Vitaminwater has almost the same amount of sugar as a can of Coke. Hence not healthy food. But, lets look at Vitaminwater Zero; according to Fooducate.com, Vitaminwater Zero contains: reverse osmosis water, less than 1% of: erythritol and crystalline fructose and rebiana (stevia extract), as natural sweeteners, magnesium lactate and calcium lactate and potassium phosphate (electrolyte sources), natural flavors, citric acid, vitamin c (ascorbic acid), fruit and vegetable juice (color), berry and fruit extracts (apple, pomegranate, acai, blueberry), vitamin b4 (niacinamide), vitamin b5 (calcium pantothenate), beta carotene, vitamin b6 (pyridoxine hydrochloride), vitamin b12, manganese citrate, gum acacia. Just because the FDA says something can be called ‘natural’ doesn’t mean it naturally occurs anywhere. Most of these ingredients are highly processed, but really its the sugar (for obvious reasons) and Stevia that concern me the most.

      On Stevia, Fooducate has this to say: “Stevia is considered the most natural non-nutritive sweetener because it comes from a plant. If you were consuming only the leaves, this would certainly hold ground. However, what you are actually consuming is a concentration of steviol glycoside – a chemically altered version of the leaf. Some tout stevia as the miracle sweetener, while others couldn’t disagree more. Studies have called it a carcinogen, while other studies say it has medical benefits. Proponents of its use say that it can help improve medical conditions from diabetes to heart disease. Stevia has been used widely in Japan since 1970, but was only approved by the FDA in 2010. While stevia certainly seems like an improvement over other artificial sweeteners, it may not deserve the halo of health it has received – only time will tell. As far as using stevia, keep in mind that like any sweetener, it should be consumed in moderation.”

  • http://www.healthyvending.com Annabel Adams

    Hi Jennifer, we appreciate your passion for healthful foods & drinks! I wanted to let you and your readers know that it is HUMAN’s policy not to sell items that have artificial additives or trans fats. Unfortunately, we’re currently undergoing a website re-launch, so some of our photos need to be updated to reflect this. Our product catalog will be available on the new site. Thank you for your feedback!

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