Natural Foods Merchandiser

Amy's Kitchen chills out with frozen vending

Organic frozen entrees are now available by vending machine.

Amy's Kitchen has launched an experimental program to dispense some of its more popular frozen foods, including pesto tortellini bowls, ravioli bowls, enchilada meals and breakfast entrees, in seven credit-card-only vending machines in various Northern California locations, according to an Oct. 10 article in Vending Market Watch.

Officially, Amy's won't talk at this point about the vending machine endeavor, releasing only the following statement from Director of Sales and Marketing Steve Warnert: "Amy's is conducting a small test in Northern California, but it is too early to tell whether it will be successful or not."

However, in a press release, Amy's President Andy Berliner said, "Results to date show that people will purchase nutritious foods, even at a higher price, if made available and given the ability to use their credit or debit cards."

Joel Humphries, who works in business development for the Santa Rosa, Calif.-based Amy's, told Vending Market Watch that the Amy's vending machines are being tested in office buildings, hospitals and police stations. Entrees are priced from $2.25 to $3.95, Humphries said, and some machines are averaging sales of $100 to $200 per week.

Food service analyst Bill Stewart said Amy's has picked an unusual and potentially arduous way to enter the organic foodservice segment.

Traditionally, organic and natural food manufacturers develop bulk packaging and launch product in college cafeterias, considered the most organics-friendly facet of the foodservice market, said Stewart, president of Boulder, Colo.-based Real Food Services. But Amy's doesn't have bulk packaging, which may explain the foray into vending machines, which sell entrée-sized products.

"It's an interesting gamble on their part, considering that most frozen food in vending machines is stuff like Kraft mac and cheese with a price point of around $1.99," Stewart said. "But if Amy's is successful, wouldn't that be great? Vending is just a world of horrible food, and they could change that."

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