Candy and soda used to be the only thing you could get from a vending machine. These days, you can get anything from hot food and beverage items to phone chargers and cosmetics. The future of vending, or otherwise known as ‘automated retailing’, looks very bright as it evolves with an ever-changing landscape of consumers’ needs for convenience, especially in a place of business.
Where did vending machines come from?
The first modern, coin-operated vending machine was invented by Percival Everitt in 1883. The machines soon spread widely across England, found in train stations and post offices across the country containing postcards, stationary and stamps. Vending machines were then introduced in the U.S. shortly after in 1888 by Thomas Adams Gum Company. The machines sold gum on New York City train platforms.
In 1907, gumball vending machines and other bulk vending soon took off with their low maintenance and high profit margin appeal. From there, the vending machine industry expanded exponentially into cigarettes, newspapers, food and beverages, and beyond. Beverages today remain the most popular item sold through vending machines.
Vending machines today
Food and beverage vending machines have evolved greatly over the years. Today, we see ‘full line’ or ‘full service’ vending with several types of vending machines that sell a wide range of products such as cookies, chips, fresh fruit, milk, cold food, coffee, and even some frozen products like ice cream. There are even Sprinkles Cupcakes vending machines now!
We also see many more non-perishable goods showing up in vending machines such as iPods/iPads, headphones and perfume. These non-traditional vending machines aren’t focused on purchases and increasing revenue, but rather strategically placed to increase brand awareness. The convenience factor and top of mind awareness all plays into your decision to make that big purchase.
Similarly, vending machine technologies has also seen a big leap over the years. Where you used to only be able to insert coins and dollars, most vending machines today take credit and debit cards creating a hassle-free and even more convenient option. Vending machines also operate on smart technology now with better dispensing methods. Gone are the days of losing your money in a vending machine when your item gets stuck. And, if your item does get stuck, Smart Vend is a new technology used in most vending machines that will return your money if your item fails to dispense correctly. Today’s vending machines also use energy-saving technology that use LED lights and shut off the machine’s lights when there is no movement around it.
The future of food and beverage vending machines
More and more, we see the trend in the food and beverage industry leading toward more health-conscious and low-calories options. Products seen in food and beverage vending machines today incorporate more items like fruit juices, nuts, popcorn, granola bars, baked chips, and electrolyte water.
Similarly, the newest trend in vending is the Micro Market set up. This option consists of a small convenience store-type feel and allows businesses to offer hundreds of fresh food options, an unlimited variety of snacks and drinks, and healthy alternatives choices to their customers.
From postcards and gumballs, to candy bars and soda, to the new variety of healthy choices, there is a vending machine for everyone. With the growing need of convenience and accessibility becoming more important in consumers’ every day lives, vending machines have become a staple in the food and beverage retail industry.