The results of a national vending machine pilot test in American middle and high schools released on September 10 show that milk is a hit with kids as long as it is offered when, where and how they like it.
According to the test, milk consumption in schools has the potential to increase up to 4 per cent, or 16.3 million gallons of milk, per school year.
The test, a project of the National "got milk®" Milk Mustache Campaign, was jointly sponsored by the National Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Board, Dairy Management Inc.™ and beverage vending machine manufacturer Maytag/Dixie-Narco. It included 86 new high-tech vending machines dispensing a variety of flavoured milks in plastic single-serve packaging.
"We found that if you make milk more accessible to kids during the day, and give them the flavoured milks they love in single-serve, re-sealable plastic bottles, they will drink more of it," said Tom Nagle, vice president of marketing for the National Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Board . "And nutritionally, that's a very good choice."
According to the test results, each student could potentially drink one additional gallon (3.785 litre) during the 36-week school year, if it were available in branded, single-serve packaging, in a variety of flavours and fat levels, and in conveniently located vending machines.
In a survey done at the end of the test, students reported they drank the vended milk instead of soft drinks, fruit drinks and water, and not in place of the school lunch milk. 68 per cent of students said they bought vended milk, and many students had positive comments, including "It's a great way to call kids' attention to drinking milk;" "It gives us a choice besides soda."
According to the survey, students liked the 16-ounce serving size, which contains 600 mg calcium, with about a quarter of respondents saying they would like more milk per serving.
60 per cent of middle school kids said they bought the milk for lunch, while high school kids bought the milk equally before school, before lunch and at lunch. Nearly 25 per cent of both audiences also bought the milk after lunch and after school.
"Research shows that over the past 30 years, soft drink consumption among kids ages 11 to 18 has nearly tripled while their milk consumption has decreased almost 40 per cent. If this trend continues, it could lead to increased obesity and a higher risk of osteoporosis for them when they reach adulthood," said Gregory Miller, Ph.D., executive vice president of Nutrition Research and Scientific Affairs for the National Dairy Council®, the nutrition research, education and communications arm of Dairy Management Inc.
"If these vending machines can encourage kids to drink milk more often, that's good news for their health in terms of getting them the calcium and nutrients they need at a critical time in their growth and development," he added.
Each vending machine offered at least three flavoured milks, and a variety of fat levels of milk. Flavoured milks were popular in the vending test, outselling white milk 9 to 1. Chocolate was the best-selling flavour, representing 60 per cent of total vending sales.
"Given the positive results of this test, we anticipate that more and more milk processors will encourage the schools in their areas to install milk vending machines," Nagle said. "Our goal is to make milk as convenient and cool to kids as any beverage."