NORTHFIELD: Kraft, the food group, is combining tools including digital facial recognition and smartphones as it seeks to engage consumers in new ways in stores.

It is now trialling a vending machine in Chicago, developed with Intel, the technology specialist, giving out free products to shoppers who scan a code or send an SMS with their mobile phone.

The five-week test at the Shedd Aquarium is also promoting a new Jell-O range, Temptations, the brand's first line aimed at adults, with flavours like key lime pie and strawberry cheesecake.

When someone approaches the iSample Experience machine, an internal camera uses facial recognition technology to determine whether they are old enough, and shuts down if this is not the case.

Should the scheme prove a success, Kraft is considering rolling it out on a wider level, Ed Kaczmarek, its director of innovation, consumer experiences, told the Chicago Tribune.

He further reported that the iSample Experience does not store phone numbers, but only gathers data based on approximate age and gender.

The company plans to introduce a second such machine in South Street Seaport, New York City, during the run-up to Christmas, to gain maximum exposure among festive shoppers.

"It's providing a new experience and is actually creating an emotional connection to our brand," Kaczmarek added. "This could be inside a retail grocery or mass merchant because we're seamlessly integrating in the technology."

Kraft and Intel have worked together for two years in developing the iSample Experience, with the original iteration being some three times bigger than the current version, which is four-feet wide.

Stacy DeBroff, chief executive of Mom Central Consulting, boasting clients like PepsiCo, General Mills and ConAgra Foods, was confident the idea would be a major hit.

"It's a game changer," she said. "No one talks about the hundreds of millions of samples given out every year. But they put in some vending machine dispensing samples and everyone's buzzing about it."

Data sourced from Chicago Tribune; additional content by Warc staff