Courtesy Vend Natural
Vend Natural and Del Monte worked through the same vending machine manufacturer while Del Monte developed its vending machines, and Sanchez said he watched closely as Del Monte test-marketed its products.
âWe saw the success they had, and weâre hoping to see the same results,â Sanchez said.
Vend Natural did not test Del Monte products itself and will not put them in its machines until after the new year.
Fresh, perishable fruits, like the sliced apples the company has worked with before, actually move faster than dried fruits for the companyâs existing machines, Sanchez said.
âIt has been received very well,â Sanchez said. âEven in middle schools, high schools, theyâre buying it. We feel if you put out a quality product, people buy it.â
Vend Naturalâs operations fit with Del Monteâs nationwide distribution network, said Dennis Christou, vice president of marketing for Del Monte.
The vending machine company specializes in natural and organic products such as milk and 100% fruit juices, and services most of its machines daily, Sanchez said. Many of its products also are certified organic.
Sanchez said more than 90% of the companyâs machines are in schools, and 80% on the East Coast, where he plans to start rolling out the Del Monte products. Schools have been supportive of the machines because they provide healthful options rather than junk food, he said.
âWe can be made to be an ally, not an enemy,â he said. âWhen these show up in schools, kids thank us. Weâve really modeled our products after what you could find at a Whole Foods or a Trader Joeâs or a Sprouts.â
Christou said the vending machine companyâs position in schools is an obvious opportunity for fresh produce.
âVend Naturalâs presence in educational institutions, businesses and hospitals throughout the U.S. will aid efforts to decrease obesity and other preventable but chronic epidemics by giving everyone healthy alternatives to high-calorie, conventional snacks found in vending machines,â Christou said.
Vend Natural should be offering ready-to-eat Del Monte fresh cut fruit and vegetable mixes, including Del Monte Gold Extra Sweet pineapple chunks, grapes, apple slices, baby carrots, celery and tomatoes, some of which are paired with healthy dips, Christou said.
âSeveral locations will also carry specially wrapped Del Monte single service bananas,â Christou said.
Most of the products should be priced between $1.50 and $2.25, Sanchez said.
âIf we do a larger fruit bowl, it might be $2.50, or a single banana, it might be $1. Weâre still working it out,â Sanchez said.
Staff writer Ashley Bentley contributed to this article.