How H.U.M.A.N. Is Breaking Through As the Next-Generation Snack Machine

This vending company reinvents the business by stocking health and information. Plus, a look at other game-changers in the health space.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the June 2011 issue of . Subscribe »

Sean Kelly was a die-hard New York City gym rat back in 2003 when, after a particularly tough workout, he found himself in a quandary.

"I left the sports club in search of fuel, but couldn't find anything healthy for five square blocks," Kelly says. "There were white tablecloth restaurants, convenience stores and bagel shops."

Later, when Kelly saw a woman in the gym walk over to the vending machine, buy a 20-ounce Coke and put it in the cup holder of her treadmill, his fate was sealed. "I looked at that and said, that doesn't make sense," he says.

So Kelly founded FitFuel, a company that at first was dedicated to offering vending machine owners healthful options, but it soon morphed into a fitness e-tailer that eventually went bust. In 2007, Kelly was still transfixed by the idea of getting more healthful options into gyms, schools and office buildings. That's when he returned to his original idea and founded (helping unite man and nutrition) Healthy Vending. He developed partnerships and redesigned the vending machine from the ground up before launching in 2009.

So what do these next-generation vending machines look like? They're big, but 30 percent more efficient than older versions. All the lights are LEDs, and instead of corkscrews awkwardly dangling bags of chips, Kelly's machines use conveyor belts. They also take credit and debit cards.

But the biggest difference is the display at the top, which runs ads and informs consumers about the healthful products in the machines.

"I used to think the biggest problem was insufficient access to nutrition, but now I know that's only the second biggest problem," Kelly says. "Until you educate a person, they don't even know they need nutrition."

So far, h.u.m.a.n. has sold more than 500 machines to operators throughout the country, who are able to stock them with more than 5,000 products--including energy bars and juices, along with items like board shorts and gym towels. Kelly hopes 1,000 of his machines will be in schools, hospitals, office buildings and other public areas by the end of 2011.

Kelly has also customized and improved a vending machine that cooks and serves up frozen meals.

"How many kids go to school without breakfast?" he says. "The lunch lady could stock the machine and these kids could get a full, healthy meal."

More Health Brilliance

Cancer Commons An online network of physicians, researchers and companies formulating personalized treatment based on the best available science.

Fit for Trips This adventure travel specialist helps people get in optimal physical shape for a host of exciting trips.

Hello Health This healthcare portal lets patients interact with their doctors via video chat and IM--plus get records, make appointments and review test results.

LiveProud A collection of high-quality sportswear brands that source eco-friendly and recycled materials in North America.

Qliance A new take on health care: Qliance gives patients unrestricted access to its primary care physicians through membership plans ranging $49 to $129 a month.

ReRev This retrofitter of gym equipment can turn an ordinary treadmill into a source of renewable energy.

Switch2Health A wrist device tracks activity levels; users redeem points for rewards, like iTunes and Target gift cards.

220 Fitness Concepts A gym and training program that makes working out fun with games, jump rope and classes held on the beach. A favorite of Oprah and Jennifer Aniston. Customers design their own yoga mats with custom colors, photos and more.

More from Entrepreneur
Our Franchise Advisors are here to help you throughout the entire process of building your franchise organization!
  1. Schedule a FREE one-on-one session with a Franchise Advisor
  2. Choose one of our programs that matches your needs, budget, and timeline
  3. Launch your new franchise organization
Discover the franchise that’s right for you by answering some quick questions about
  • Which industry you’re interested in
  • Why you want to buy a franchise
  • What your financial needs are
  • Where you’re located
  • And more
Discover a better way to hire freelancers. From business to marketing, sales, finance, design, technology, and more, we have the freelancers you need to tackle your most important work and projects, on-demand.

Latest on Entrepreneur