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CORAL GABLES, FL -- Del Monte Fresh Produce Co. N.A. Inc. , a subsidiary of Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc., a leading vertically integrated producer, marketer and distributor of high-quality fresh and fresh-cut fruit and vegetables, launched Sept. 23 its new vending line of healthy snack alternatives at the National Automated Merchants Convention in Chicago.

The line, which features specially packaged bananas and fresh-cut fruit and vegetables, offers vending operators a solution to meet society's growing demand for healthy snacks in vending machines.

"Research and growing concern over important health issues and caloric intake prove that consumers are taking steps to eat healthier," Dennis Christou, vice president of marketing at Del Monte Fresh, said in a Sept. 23 press release. "As a company, we feel the need to respond to the increasing consumer demand for healthy snack options on the go. With this fresh vending line, we are providing completely natural items with less than 120 calories that are ready to eat."

Elizabeth Pivonka, chief executive officer of the Produce for Better Health Foundation, added in the release, "We are so excited about the launch of Del Monte Fresh Produce Company's new and innovative vending line, which helps make fruit and vegetable snacks more accessible. With the rates of obesity among children and adults rising, it is important to give consumers healthier options in as many venues as possible, and Del Monte's fresh vending line is a step in the right direction. It is a great way to help people stay healthy when on the go and perfect for our hectic lives."

Del Monte Fresh has an extensive network of distribution centers, as well as fresh-cut and repack facilities, strategically located throughout key cities in the United States, allowing for fast, safe and convenient distribution of the entire product line. The products are specially packaged and kept in temperature-controlled refrigerated vending machines to ensure freshness, and are typically replenished at least once week.

For example, Del Monte's "CRT" proprietary banana packaging slows the ripening process and extends the yellow life of the fruit for a total of five days when kept in ambient conditions of 57-60 degree, according to the release. It also helps maintain freshness and appearance while improving the texture and sweetness of the banana.

The fresh-cut products, portioned between four and six ounces, offer a varied mix of pineapple chunks, grapes, apple slices, baby carrots, celery and tomato -- some paired with light dips.

Del Monte's vending line has been tested in Illinois and southern Florida, in various schools, health clubs, parks, institutions and office facilities. The company said that it has received enthusiastic feedback from this test.

The vending line will initially be featured in select venues throughout the mid-Atlantic and southeastern United States, with availability increasing at the beginning of 2010. Prices range from $1 to $2.25 per item.