Guest Blog: How These New Healthy Vending Bills Will Impact Our Industry

March 3, 2016

Last week, I had the privilege to work with the Maryland Beverage Association in Annapolis on the annual industry day where all of the State senators and delegates meet and see what new trends are in beverages. The whole emphasis of the agenda this year was healthy vending because in early March, The State of Maryland is introducing legislation on providing 75 percent healthier items and 25 percent traditional items in vending machines that are in State facilities.

The folks at Sugar Free Maryland still want vending machines to offer variety but in a typical 45 selection snack machine, that is 33 columns of healthier items which only allows for sale 12 traditional products in the machine for purchase. In a traditional beverage vending machine, 75 percent is 7 out of 9 columns!

Here is where legislation like this will go wrong:

We are severely limiting the freedom to choose. More people are eating healthier but folks still want the option to indulge.

The current State mandate is 25 percent healthy items so they already have a choice.

State employees will seek their needs elsewhere and possibly leave their office and walk 15 minutes to get an ice cream or a candy bar somewhere in Annapolis or close to their venue. Not to mention that the convenience store, in-house cafeteria or other outside food options have no restrictions of this nature. Can you imagine how much money would be lost in productivity?

You are going to force the vending company to provide poor service because 25 percent of the machines will be empty four times as fast.

This will force vend operators to raise prices on the consumer, lower commissions and tax revenues as there is a cost to keeping 25 percent of a vending machine full which will increase vending operational expenses in labor, product waste and equipment costs. Vending revenues will reduce by 50 percent or more in all sites!

This will cost the taxpayers more money because it will lower the funds that the Department of Rehabilitative Services receives to assist with programs for rehabilitative services along with costing Randolph Sheppard Act operators funds to operate their businesses across the state.

This will cost well-paying jobs both to vending operators and Randolph Sheppard Operators across the State as well.

Vending technology and packaging already offers nutritional information and standards prior to purchase. This should be the focus.

More research has to be done as follows:

Consider balance of the offerings with choices of healthier options, which will achieve the same goal to offer and increase the number of healthier vending selections to the consumer at purchase and keep revenues consistent.

Provide more research on the “financial harm” to the State that this will cause if it is passed.

Poll the vending operators and see what the trends are instead of thinking that this is a necessity.

The potential harm that is done with this legislation would be far greater than the standards that the folks seeking this legislation would gain from it. This is rushed legislation attempting to mandate something that has not even been fully researched.

I am all about healthier vending and trends that have been taking place but the American Dream is to prosper and to have freedom to choose. This proposed legislation restricts both of those rights.

About the author: 

Dave Mandella has been an industry veteran for 23 years and is the VP/General Manager of Black Tie Services in Baltimore, MD.