Innovative 8-oz aseptic plastic milk bottles from Bravo! Foods put milk in the spot previously occupied by soft drinks.

When a company decides to make milk accessible to all types of consumers at all times of the day, vending becomes a key channel.

In schools, for instance, changes to federal child nutrition programs in 2004 eased marketplace constraints on milk vending. Nestlé USA, Glendale, Calif., was one of the first companies to embrace this opportunity, putting its 8- oz and 14-oz 100% flavored milk Nesquik® products into vending machines in schools across the country. "With Nesquik in the schools, we are providing a nutritionally dense option for kids wherever they are," says Cathy Dean, marketing manager, Nesquik Ready-to- Drink Beverage Division. Nestlé approaches vending in three ways: by offering free branded vending machines to qualified outlets, working with independent vending partners and securing a "button or two" in machines owned by soft drink manufacturers.

"Overall, we are very committed to the vending channel," says Dean, who notes Nestlé made its first forays into vending in 2003. The company recently launched a Nesquik product line in 14-oz aseptically processed plastic bottles that not only fit in vending machines but also can be shipped and stored at ambient temperatures and chilled for serving. Nesquik, which is the number one brand in flavored milk, offers such flavors as Chocolate, Strawberry and Double Chocolate in its new 14-oz bottle.

Bravo! Foods International Corp., North Palm Beach, Fla., also has invested in aseptic processing and filling of plastic bottles. "Milk sales have historically been relegated to cold-chain distribution," says Benjamin Patipa, Bravo! COO. "Our single-serve, shelf-stable milks in plastic bottles can be stored at ambient temperature for up to eight months."

Being able to distribute at ambient temperature enabled Bravo! Foods to team up with the nation's largest beverage distributor, Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE), Atlanta, Ga., to deliver shelf-stable milk bever ages on the same big red trucks that transport soft drinks. "While technology and branding are extremely important, distribution may be the most critical part of growing our business," adds Patipa.

In August 2005, Bravo! Foods signed an exclusive 10-year distribution agreement for CCE to distribute the company's milk beverages nationwide. "The original agreement covered convenience stores, education, vending and small independent stores," explains Patipa. "Just this past June, we expanded those channels to include grocery stores, drug stores and mass merchandisers."

Bravo! is rolling out an 8-oz aseptic plastic bottle that fits a vending machine and has the same dimensions as a 12-oz Coke® can. The 8-oz product line includes 3 MUSKETEERS® Slammers®, Trix® Slammers, Cocoa Puff® Slammers and three flavors of Pro Slammers®. Later in the school year, CCE will add co-branded Bravo!TM Organic Valley Family of Farms to the 8-oz lineup.

Nestlé is looking beyond schools to office vending. "We are focused on getting Nesquik wherever and whenever a consumer wants a beverage," says Dean. "Wherever you see a carbonated soft drink, we want to have Nesquik."