What does a bag of Skittles have in common with a bag of Doritos? You won't find either in Park City local Mary Palmer's vending machines. Palmer started a franchise business, Healthy Vending, which offers strictly healthy snack and drink options.
"We're trying to make healthy food more convenient than junk food," Palmer said. "Our slogan is 'Easy Nutrition Everywhere.'"
Every item in the vending machine is screened by health experts, including doctors and dieticians. Whether its Clif Bars or Popchips, Fiji Apple Fruit Crisps or Today's Farm Peaches, Vita Coco or Izze, the products offer a healthy alternative to the typical vending machine fare. And the healthy options are often offered at the same price point as chips or soda, with most items costing between 75 cents and a $1.50.
"I'm starting in Park City because this is my community," Palmer said. " I am passionate about getting these machines in Park City first and expand throughout Northern Utah from there."
Palmer remembers her own moment of frustration, pregnant and standing in front of a hospital vending machine in the middle of the night. She was in Phoenix helping her father after an emergency cranial operation.
"In the day, I could find something healthy in the cafeteria," Palmer said. "I could scrounge up a hard-boiled egg or an apple. But at night when I got hungry, when I was trying to take care of my father and myself and the baby, there was one option: vending machines. And there was nothing healthy in there.
This year, Palmer was reading a Forbes article when she discovered the company, Healthy Vending, which was named the 37th Most Promising Company. It was her 'aha' moment, she said. After attending a training camp early September to start her own franchise, Palmer said she started keeping her home constantly stocked with potential product, testing what would work with her children.
"You put an apple in your child's lunchbox and it just comes back bruised and untouched," she said. "You end up with a healthy garbage can. But if you present a bar, there is one called "That's it," and all it has is one apple and 12 cherries. That's it. And it tastes great and you know your child will get their fruit requirements for the day."
Palmer said she's interested in testing product more, and has even become known as the Snack Lady on her block. From offering local product to tailoring what is offered based on location, Healthy Vending has more than 5,000 approved snacks.
The machines accept credit and debit cards and provide nutrition tips and information using an LCD screen that streams video. It even slashes energy costs, making the machines an estimated 50 percent more efficient than a standard machine.
"I have not been able to find anything else like this in the state," Palmer said, "and I have looked. I'm the only one I know of."
"Now I'm in the process of selecting where the machines are going to go," she added. " we're looking for places that get a lot of foot traffic. I'm in the contract phase with several locations right now."
Palmer said she plans to start with 10 machines and hopes to have them in locations around Park City this December.