Visitors to Amsterdam and other Dutch cities and towns may be familiar with the traditional concept of “eating from the wall” where vending machines dispense savoury snacks for on-the-go convenience. Now, the Dutch organisation that represents the fruit and vegetable sector, The Fresh Produce Centre in the Netherlands (Groenten Fruit Huis), wants to put a fruity twist on an old idea. PBUK investigates.
Debuting the “Healthy Snack” vending machine, Wilma van den Oever from the Fresh Produce Centre explains how the innovative fruit in the wall concept ties in with the organisation’s overarching objective of trying to increase fruit and vegetable consumption.
“Here in London is the first time that we bring our “Healthy Snack” concept which is an interesting twist on an old Dutch phenomena – eating from the wall,” she tells PBUK.
“It’s a taste of a typical Dutch experience but with fresh fruit and vegetables as opposed to savoury food with a high fat and salt content which Dutch people have been used to for many, many years.
“The idea of food in the wall is to offer convenience and traditionally Dutch people buy a warm snack from the wall, to be eaten straight away. Now, we want to try this with fruit and vegetables instead.”
The machine, which is operated by a special token was drawing a lot of attention from visitors at LPS2017, interested in the colourful produce inside.
Vending machines built into the wall may be a familiar part of the street landscape in the Netherlands, but as they are usually stocked with fries and fast food, heating components are built into the machine. In contrast, the “Healthy Snack” vending machine needs to be modified for refrigeration.
Swapping in fruit and vegetables could help increase consumption among children who are keen on the machines because they are seen as a bit of “food fun”.
“We were thinking about the fact that people need to eat more fruit and vegetables, snack more on fresh produce, and the fact that the out-of-home market is growing. However, it’s very hard to find healthy snacks when you are on the move and now we think our new innovation gives a good twist to the idea.
“We’ve been presenting it here at the London Produce Show as an eye-catching concept. We’ve had really enthusiastic reactions, people seem to like it.”
Van den Oever adds that the organisation wants to partner with a company to adopt the idea commercially and to explore ways to change the system from heating up contents to cooling.
“Fast food restaurants and others are now exploring vending machines for unhealthy snacks, maybe they could think about this as well.
“We think there is definitely a market for this concept. You simply put your coins in and open the window with the fruit and vegetables that you want.
“It could also work for airports, train stations and other places where people are in a rush and they want to grab something in a hurry. A lot of times they don’t have the choice between a healthy and an unhealthy snack, but this concept changes that.”
Some of the challenges involved in getting the “Healthy Snack” operational other than fitting it with refrigeration, include the perishable contents and how quickly the “fruit in the wall” could be restocked.
“This is indeed a challenge as the vending machines need to be in areas that are accessible and can be topped up with fresh fruit and vegetables quickly otherwise it will look empty pretty quickly.
“You can stock it with anything really. We’ve chosen snacking vegetables which are really on trend like little tomatoes, red peppers and cucumbers as well as some soft fruits like strawberries and raspberries.”
“We want to find partners to help us introduce these machines into physical spaces – because it is entirely possible to have a healthy snack on offer to busy people everywhere they go.”