Healthy vending machines at JIMS or a new move in the battle of healthy branding
At the end of April, the gym chain JIMS is deploying smart and healthy vending machines in its 27 clubs in Belgium and Luxembourg. I went to take a closer look at these machines and had the opportunity to meet Pieterjan Nuitten, Business Unit Manager at JIMS.
Indeed, it's true that healthy products in vending machines is not a new idea. The same is true for intelligent machines, as we have been talking about them for some years now. But to me, the story was still worth looking into, so read on to find out why.
Healthy, smart and all that jazz
An intelligent machine
For those of you who have been following my articles for a long time, I have already talked about smart vending machines in the past during my reports on visits to Vending Paris, EuVend & Coffeena, Equipmag or Euroshop (the first time must have been around 2014-2015 if I remember correctly). So, the technology has been around for a few years now, but it seems to have taken a while to catch on in Belgium.
But anyway, I feel that some people need a reminder on these smart machines. So here is how the model installed at JIMS works: The customer identifies himself with his card before opening the machine. He takes the products he wants, and the machine thanks to sensors that work by weight, recognizes the products that are taken. When the door is closed, the payment is made. In short, it's very simple.
In addition, the telemetry is in real time. This means that the quantities taken are monitored as they are picked, and alerts can be sent to the operator responsible for restocking to prevent shortages.
Healthy for before, during and after sport
For the contents of the machine, the choice was made to use only healthy products (in other words, no sweet or salty foods). As the person in charge explained to me, the choices were based on a selection of macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, fats), food supplements, vitamins, sports nutrition and rehydration in the broadest sense of the term. There are about 45 references such as drinks, energy bars, protein chips and there is even a non-alcoholic beer. This beer is Thrive, a Belgian product from a small startup. It's a non-alcoholic beer with protein, to be enjoyed after exercise. Having had the opportunity to taste it, I can tell you that it is quite good compared to other beers in its category.
But where did the idea for the concept come from?
As Pieterjan Nuitten explains, the healthy vending machine project is the result of a lot of thought and group work: “Firstly, the typical vending machines found in train stations, schools and even hospitals usually only offer sugary snacks and drinks. Secondly, with the coronavirus crisis, there has been an increase in preventive health care and we noted a rise of the importance of a balanced diet and sufficient physical activity. Finally, of course, we listened to the demand of our members: a global approach combining sport and nutrition and a growing need for advice and tailor-made solutions”.
My 20/CENT: a real chess game
First of all, what is interesting in this development is the collaboration, or should I say synergy, between different entities of the Colruyt Group. Indeed, the project involves different divisions: Smart Technics is involved in the design of the smart device; Solucious is the platform that deals with logistics and replenishment; some of the products referenced in the devices come from Newpharma; and of course, at JIMS, where the devices are deployed, the staff is trained to advise its members according to their needs. Hence, it's a whole team effort developed under one flag.
But to me it goes a little bit further. The approach to the project is a bit like a chess game where the master involves several of his pieces. The Colruyt Group seems to confirm its intention to show consumers that the group stands for a holistic approach to health.
However, we should not jump to the conclusion that the group is repositioning itself on the health axis instead of the usual low prices. Remember that over the years, during good cycles or times of crisis, the group has always kept the same course and emphasized its low-price policy. But at the same time, the group is working on different axes such as sustainability or, in this case, health. Indeed, everyone remembers the windmills, the organic shops, the local suppliers, the facades painted with paint that captures fine particles... sustainability is already associated with Colruyt. Health on the other hand, was perhaps not yet necessarily seen as a focus of the group.
The acquisitions of Newpharma and JIMS sometimes raised eyebrows and questions. But now they are clearer and offer a long-term perspective. It seems that the retailer from Hal has decided to show that the health axis is another pillar of the group. So, expect to see more developments in the future. Imagine, for example, synergies for pregnant women who will see their birth list at DreamBaby accompanied by a pre- or post-natal program in the group's sports clubs, or nutritional support for senior citizens or gym members combined with home deliveries... The group has many creative opportunities if you ask me.
Since the pandemic, health has become a priority concern for consumers and retailers are all positioning themselves. With this first successful project, it seems that Colruyt announces that the chess game is obviously on.
ColruytRetail VendingDistribution AutomatiqueHealthyHealth