Vending machines are no longer just for snacks and drinks. Today’s “next-generation” vending machines can serve up fresh salads and hot pizza in a matter of minutes.
With that, Technavio predicts that the intelligent vending machine market is poised to grow by $9.33 billion through 2024, progressing at a CAGR of almost 22%.
KEY MARKET PLAYERS
Farmer’s Fridge vending machines dispense fresh salads for healthy and convenient options on-the-go. The automated smart fridges dispense full jars of salads, as well as other healthy meals and snacks. The company has over 400 machines in office buildings, hospitals, and food courts in six U.S. states, The Wall Street Journal previously reported.
The smart vending machines are connected to the internet, allowing the company to monitor food safety remotely. Farmer’s Fridge estimates that its salads are made, delivered, and sold within 36 hours, and it won’t sell a salad after 48 hours.
Another convenient salad provider is Chowbotics, which was acquired by DoorDash earlier this year. DoorDash is now testing Chowbotics’ Sally robot to make private label salads and microwaveable meals to be sold at its DashMart delivery-only convenience stores, reported The Spoon (July 30). The salad-making robot mixes up to eight ingredients into a compostable bowl in just 90 seconds.
Meanwhile, Basil Street is breaking out automated pizza baking kiosks. At the touch of a button, the 22-square-foot units cook flash-frozen 10-inch pizzas, which are dispensed in about three minutes, reported Meat + Poultry (Aug. 4).
“Automated food kiosks are accepted globally as a viable option for meals on the go,” CEO Delgin Kenealy told Meat + Poultry. “Now, with the pandemic, the need for contact-free solutions is rising in the U.S.”
For students, Vancouver-based UpMeals recently rolled out a smart vending machine solution at Simon Fraser University, reported Vending Market Watch (June 8). The company says the machine will provide 24/7 access to healthy, sustainable meal options for students and that the menu will be curated based on a survey provided to groups of students identifying the types of cuisine they would like to see.
WHAT IS DRIVING INTEREST?
Though some smart vending machines may have existed pre-2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has really pushed their growth forward.
In a report from The Washington Post, Carla Balakgie, CEO of the National Automatic Merchandising Association, said that pandemic fears and social distancing have accelerated vending machine adoption. “It’s touchless, it’s considered safe and it’s prepackaged so products haven’t been fondled and breathed on,” she told the publication.
Meanwhile, Basil Street’s Kenealy noted to Vending Times that the pandemic ended up accelerating demand for the machines across the U.S. “because our process minimizes touchpoints, decision-makers within these locations have identified our Automated Pizza Kitchens (APK) as a wonderful option.
“People are beginning to realize that a high-volume, retail food solution like our APK can feed a large number of people with significantly less risk of food- or human-borne illness,” he added.