Fresh vending idea to shake up P and C channel

Demand for healthy and better-for-you products in convenience has never been stronger. A fact demonstrated by the enormous response received to a new fruit-vending machine, FruitBar™.

FruitBar’s™ Mike Evans told C&I that enquiries about Fruit Bar™ vending machines have recently “gone bananas”! FruitBar™ is in negotiations with a major Australian petrol supplier, impressed by the potential for FruitBar’s™ guarantee of convenient, great tasting, real fruit to meet their customers’ demands for healthier product.

The FruitBar™ vending machine concept was created by the Mackay family – a banana growing family based in Tully, Queensland. The Mackays originally launched a BananaBar™ vending machine a year ago and, in response to customer feedback, have now extended the concept to include a wider range of fruit.

With apples, oranges, pears and strawberries featuring in the current offer, FruitBars™ have proved popular in a range of locations – from hospitals to schools, with locations including the Valley Metro Shopping Centre in Fortitude Valley, three major Queensland hospitals and at Brisbane Boys Grammar School. Some FruitBars™ are proving so successful that they require multiple restocks each day.

Of course, fresh fruit is widely available from non-vending locations and from many petrol and convenience locations. The FruitBar™ difference is that the product is strictly quality controlled and managed from farm for consistent great taste. The offer is enhanced by attractive, attention grabbing packaging and vending machine technology that extends the product availability beyond traditional store opening hours.

Mr Evans observed that “consumers are looking for great tasting snacks and sadly often fruit is considered a risky purchase. We wanted to address this and believe that by making healthy eating easier, tastier and more trustworthy most of us would do it more often. We only choose the best fruit in the peak of its season which will allow consumers a small but varied selection of fruits throughout the year.

Mr Evans attributes the success of FruitBar™ in part to “pent up consumer demand”, and says that even he was taken by surprise at the quick take-up.

While it sounds like a simple idea, it’s not as easy as just providing a few pieces of fruit. There was, he says, a lot of development work to be done to get a successful product, including custom¬ designed vending machines with ‘bruise free’ elevators to collect and gently lower fruit for collection. Being specialist banana farmers, the Mackays – who grow about a quarter of the country’s bananas – also needed to develop a network of passionate growers able to supply a reliable variety of fruits.

The result is “a small group of business people passionate about the fruit industry we work in. We have come together to select the very best fruit in any particular season and offer it for sale through a direct and simple supply chain.”

The future looks bright for FruitBar™. Negotiations are continuing to place FruitBars™ into the P&C channel on a nation-wide basis.

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