Carla Balakgie: Before Thanksgiving, vending industry commits to ‘better’ choices | TribLIVE.com
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Carla Balakgie: Before Thanksgiving, vending industry commits to ‘better’ choices

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AP

With Thanksgiving just a fortnight away, tables across America will soon be teeming with turkey and all the trimmings — and the potential for Americans to overindulge. At the same time, millions of those same people are trying to be more mindful about their overall nutrition, including snacking.

In fact, U.S. consumers eat an estimated 390 billion ready-to-eat snack foods annually. And a growing number of those consumers are embracing balance, variety and moderation by making healthier choices.

Fortunately, they’re not alone in taking these positive steps. Food and beverage industries are working diligently to meet this growing demand by increasing the number of “better for you” options in the marketplace.

Consider vending machines: America is home to nearly 4 million vending machines. The companies that operate them, primarily small businesses, serve millions of consumers everywhere and every day. As such, vending is uniquely positioned to meet America’s shifting eating patterns and preferences.

That’s why the $26 billion convenience services industry has made a voluntary commitment to advancing public health. The National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA), with the support of two highly respected public health organizations — the Partnership for a Healthier America and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation — is working to increase the percentage of healthier options to 33% of all offerings.

This increase, representing a 40% jump from current levels, will go into effect over the next three years. In that time, “better for you” offerings will become exponentially more accessible to all Americans. As part of the process, NAMA plans to educate its members and the general public on the goals and progress of this public health commitment, in addition to engaging with food manufacturers to support the industry’s efforts.

This is a major step forward for the industry and its national association, building on a long history of serving America’s nutritional needs, while also promoting healthier lifestyles. That work began in 2005, with the launch of FitPick, a labeling program that identifies products meeting recognized dietary standards.

Convenience services operators have been working on issues impacting public health for many years. This latest, voluntary endeavor is the responsible progression in the industry’s desire to be part of the solution.

The stakes are high. From obesity to high blood pressure and heart disease, American’s health outcomes are inextricably linked to what they consume.

Understanding the stakes, our industry has chosen to make the “better for you” choice the convenient choice for all Americans.

Carla Balakgie is president and CEO of the National Automatic Merchandising Association.

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