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PepsiCo revamping vending machines after backlash

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PepsiCo Inc, facing an anti-soda backlash and health concerns about snack foods, is looking to make a comeback in an especially hard-hit part of the industry: vending machines.

[NEW YORK] PepsiCo Inc, facing an anti-soda backlash and health concerns about snack foods, is looking to make a comeback in an especially hard-hit part of the industry: vending machines.

The company is rolling out several thousand dual- temperature machines that offer both food and drinks under the new Hello Goodness brand, according to a statement. The units will include healthier products from PepsiCo's beverage and Frito-Lay divisions, including Naked Juice, Lays Oven Baked chips and Sabra hummus cups.

The idea is to put a fresh face on an invention long associated with junk food, cigarettes and other vices. Though vending machines are still widespread, they've been jettisoned from many US schools and other locations over health concerns. US vending sales declined by 1 per cent to US$4.5 billion in 2014, according to Euromonitor International.

PepsiCo's new machines will have a digital interface, letting customers make purchases with credit cards or Apple Pay, said Kirk Tanner, chief operating officer of beverages in North America."This is the vending machine of the future," he said in an interview. "There's an opportunity for us to be a leader in better-for-you vending, and we have a long-term commitment to making that happen."

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The move is part of a broader push by Chief Executive Officer Indra Nooyi to offer healthier snacks. Consumers are increasingly shunning sugary drinks and candy, plaguing soda sales for PepsiCo and competitor Coca-Cola.

Schools have been a key battleground for the industry. The federal government has imposed standards on foods sold in school vending machines, limiting the amount of sugar, sodium and calories. The change has hurt vending operators, reducing sales in some cases by 30 per cent to 40 per cent, according to Vending Market Watch, a trade publication. Though new technology and snacks are helping the industry rebound, total sales are still below where they were before the last US recession.

PepsiCo is betting healthier choices will help change that. Its machines will be located in places like hospitals, universities, offices and transportation hubs, the company said."We see it as a great way to grow our business - to reach consumers in places that we can't reach them other than vending," Mr Tanner said.

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