Vending Machines: A Narrative Review of Factors Influencing Items Purchased

Published:August 18, 2016DOI:


      Vending machines are a ubiquitous part of our food environments. Unfortunately, items found in vending machines tend to be processed foods and beverages high in salt, sugar, and/or fat. The purpose of this review is to describe intervention and case studies designed to promote healthier vending purchases by consumers and identify which manipulations are most effective. All studies analyzed were intervention or case studies that manipulated vending machines and analyzed sales or revenue data. This literature review is limited to studies conducted in the United States within the past 2 decades (ie, 1994 to 2015), regardless of study population or setting. Ten articles met these criteria based on a search conducted using PubMed. Study manipulations included price changes, increase in healthier items, changes to the advertisements wrapped around vending machines, and promotional signs such as a stoplight system to indicate healthfulness of items and to remind consumers to make healthy choices. Overall, seven studies had manipulations that resulted in statistically significant positive changes in purchasing behavior. Two studies used manipulations that did not influence consumer behavior, and one study was equivocal. Although there was no intervention pattern that ensured changes in purchasing, price reductions were most effective overall. Revenue from vending sales did not change substantially regardless of intervention, which will be important to foster initiation and sustainability of healthier vending. Future research should identify price changes that would balance healthier choices and revenue as well as better marketing to promote purchase of healthier items.


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      S. V. Hua is lab manager, The Psychology of Eating and Consumer Health Lab, Perelman School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA; at the time of the study, she was a degree candidate for a Master in Public Health, Yale School of Public Health, New Haven, CT.


      J. R. Ickovics is the Samuel and Liselotte Herman Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Yale School of Public Health, and professor, Department of Psychology, Yale University, New Haven, CT.