Consumer support for healthy food and drink vending machines in public places
Objective: To investigate the feasibility of introducing vending machines for healthier food into public places, and to examine the effectiveness of two front-of-pack labelling systems in the vending machine context. Methods: A survey was conducted with 120 students from a university and 120 employees, patients and visitors of a hospital in regional NSW, Australia. Questions explored vending machine use, attitudes towards healthier snack products and price, and the performance of front-of-pack labelling formats for vending machine products. Results: Most participants viewed the current range of snacks and drinks as "too unhealthy" (snacks 87.5%; drinks 56.7%). Nuts and muesli bars were the most liked healthier vending machine snack. Higher proportions of participants were able to identify the healthier snack in three of the five product comparisons when products were accompanied with any type of front-of-pack label (all p<0.01); however, participants were less likely to be able to identify the healthier product in the drinks comparison when a front-of-pack guide was present. Conclusion: Respondents were interested in a range of healthier snacks for vending machines. Front-of-pack label formats on vending machines may assist consumers to identify healthier products. Implications: Public settings, such as universities and hospitals, should support consumers to make healthy dietary choices by improving food environments.