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Published: Saturday, 12/24/2011

Kraft offers free samples by vending machine


CHICAGO — Step up to the vending machine, undergo a facial screening, and walk away with a free sample of Jell-O.

If you’re an adult with a cell phone, it could be that easy for the next few weeks at Shedd Aquarium. Northfield, Ill.-based Kraft Foods Inc. is testing a high-tech vending machine that could be rolled out in grocery stores to offer samples of products ranging from Oscar Mayer deli meat to Oreos.

The offer is for Temptations by Jell-O, aimed specifically at adults, with flavors such as key lime pie and strawberry cheesecake. By harnessing a camera that functions as a sensor, the machine determines the age of the person requesting a sample.

Kraft banks on the machine’s novelty to help get products into consumers’ hands and help drive sales at the grocery store.

After the machine determines that the requester is an adult, it prompts the individuals to either text a code or swipe a bar code, depending on their phones. They then can select a flavor.

The mobile phone use is to prevent anyone from getting more than one sample on a given day, said Ed Kaczmarek, director of innovation, consumer experiences at Kraft.

Test results will determine whether, or how quickly, machines could be in stores, Mr. Kaczmarek said.

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