Long gone are the days where the only vending machines you’d see in public, in workplaces or accommodation blocks were bright red Coca Cola machines.
In 2022, the world of vending has grown into a multi-billion pound industry serving products from cold drinks and hot drinks, to hot food, fresh milk, luxury gifts, books and even fresh flowers.
In this article, we look at some of the world's most unusual vending machines.
Hot food vending machines
You may have seen Bristol’s newest pizza vending machine featured on the news in the last year or so – it’s one of almost 250 smart pizza vending machines that are now in operation across Europe and the US.
Whilst ordering from a pizza takeaway chain in the UK might leave you with a 20 minute wait for your piping hot pizza, these machines can cook and dispense a pizza to a consumer in as little as 3 minutes. We haven’t been and tasted the pizza from this vending machine ourselves, but we’re slightly dubious about the speed of cooking!
Innovators in the hot food vending space include Akoof Food & Beverages, who provide French fry and crispy chicken tender vending solutions in the East Asian markets. Closer to home, Netherlands based hot food innovators FEBO have been busy rolling out their hot food vending machines around Europe, with 30 or so now in operation in Amsterdam alone, providing on-street access to products like hot dogs, croquettes, burgers and fries.
Fresh flower vending machines
We’d like to bet that when Valentine’s Day or your Wedding Anniversary last came around, you didn’t think you’d be able to get your other half some flowers from a vending machine – nor would you necessarily have thought it was a good option.
But when you think about it, how many times (if you’re being honest) have you needed to buy flowers at the last minute and had nowhere to pick them up from, aside from the nearest petrol station forecourt?
This is no longer a problem for the residents of Clapham, with the Rockflower flower vending machine now in 24/7 operation at Clapham Junction station. You might have to pay a premium for the convenience of this, but we’re certain it’s worth it to avoid upsetting your significant other!
Book vending machines
These machines have been growing in prominence in education settings in recent years, primarily in the US, with schools buying vending machines to offer a selection of great books for different age groups, on demand.
The simple systems allow teachers and other staff to hand out book tokens that can be redeemed for books in the machines, removing the cost barrier for students and encouraging them to read more. This is also a great way of improving accessibility to quality literature when libraries are closed, as book vending machines can operate 24/7. Some libraries even have a fully automated system for both signing in and signing out the books, so there’s no need for human intervention at the start or end of the process.
In the 1960s, you could even get hold of the latest copy of your favourite comic from a vending machine, which in the US would cost you somewhere between 12 cents and 15 cents. Sadly, these machines came to the end of their useful life sometime in the 1970s and have been consigned to the scrap heap.
Caviar vending machines
Yes, you read that correctly. Vending machines, stereotyped for being used in motels and undesirable locations to dispense low quality food and drinks, are being used to vend one of the world’s most valuable and high class delicacies – caviar.
If you’re in the Los Angeles area and are looking for some high-end caviar to snack on, Beverly Hills Caviar can help. Head on over to Burbank Towne Center mall for this once in a lifetime luxury vending experience.
Not a fan of caviar? No problem, they’ve covered all the bases of luxury cuisine, with truffles, escargot, blinis, oils and gourmet salts. It goes without saying that the combination of absolute convenience and luxury products means you’ll feel a purchase from the Beverly Hills Caviar vending machine in your pocket.
Dog wig vending machines
And you thought caviar vending was weird… Straight from the shores of Japan comes the dog wig vending machine. Although not your conventional vending machine, but more of a twist dispenser that you’d use for penny sweets, this is still a machine that dispenses wigs for dogs. It’s definitely a contender for the most unusual and weird vending machine.
Japan has embraced vending machine culture unlike any other nation on Earth, but if we’re being honest we have to ask when the concept of ‘if people want it, they’ll buy it from a machine’ goes too far. We reckon dog wig vending crosses the line, though we aren’t in their target market and for all we know this could be the future of vending.
Let’s hope not.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about some of the most unusual vending machines that are in operation around the world. Odds are that you won’t have seen these before, nor will you come across most in the future, but at least now you know that such machines exist and are in use by locals each and every day.
If you’re looking to buy a vending machine (something more conventional), contact our expert sales team for a consultation on 01865 341011. We’d love to hear from you.