Salads aren’t what you would normally expect from a vending machine but we may soon be seeing a shift towards these healthier, fresh snacks and meals! This comes with the increasing interest in nutrition and also as a way to combat the obesity epidemic.
Far from the usual offerings of sugary, salty, carb-loaded, carbonated and occasionally stale food, these revamped machines dispense freshly made and nutritious fare, including paleo, gluten-free, vegan and sugar-free options.
So different are these new-generation vending machines from the old ones, emergent businesses are even trying to separate themselves from the “vending machine” tag. Melbourne company The Füd Revolution refers to its machine as an “unmanned outlet” while Brisbane’s All Real Food calls theirs “self-service cafes.”
The population is becoming increasingly aware of sugars, fats and BMI – reflected in the introduction of nutritious, freshly prepared snacks in supermarkets. Sales for these items have been on the rise and many supermarkets/ restaurants/ cafes are cashing in on the movement.
Consumers are also calling for a change. Also in July, a joint survey by the University of Sydney and University of Wollongong found 87 per cent of people thought vending machine snacks were “too unhealthy” and 80 per cent were happy to fork out more cash for a more nutritious option.
These vending machines are expected to pop up everywhere you’d expect to see an ordinary vending machine (plus gyms and other health venues). The companies hope to encourage the shift towards healthier thinking and making healthier choices.
The Füd Revolution’s sole vending machine in Melbourne is stocked with nutritionally balanced snacks and meals, which have been carefully developed with a nutritionist and prepared fresh each morning. They include meal-size salads and separate proteins such as falafel, boiled eggs and chicken, as well as snacks such as organic yoghurt with gluten-free granola and raspberry coolie, raw carrot cake, paleo banana bread and green smoothies.
And business is blossoming. Füd is about to launch four more machines — which will incorporate snacks by other, local small business — and they’re in talks to install more at hospitals and universities, with national expansion on the horizon.
The vending machines weren’t a popular idea to begin with and it took a lot of persuading for businesses and offices to come around to the idea. The companies now say that they get regular requests from work places who want to install one of the machines. Given that nutritious snacks are much better for the health, wellbeing and productivity of employees – it makes sense! They would also like for people to see the machines as something separate from a vending machine which people connect with unhealthy items and behaviors.
Ms Anderson said it was all in the machine’s design, too. Füd’s outlets have none of the flashy, robot-like design features of the classic vending machine, opting instead for recycled timber wood, pretty mason jars and a generally artisan feel. “It’s to shift people away from thinking it’s a vending machine and thinking of it more of a health outlet that happens to be automated,” she said.
There will always be a draw from the traditional vending machines but this is certainly a step in the right direction and will assist people in making easy, nutritious options. The vending machines are presented differently so people don’t associate them with unnatural messages. The companies also hope that the quirky packaging and jars will inspire people to go home and reuse the packaging to make their own salads and snacks.
“Placing fresh salads in non-recyclable containers and selling them from oversized ostentatious machines simply sends the wrong messages,” he said.
“Further pushing their social agenda, most companies distribute unsold inventory at the end of the day to charity groups and the homeless.”
While he admitted there would always be a market for vending machines stocked with old-school junk food, he also wanted to see more extensions to new vending machines that would let them sell things like fresh Vietnamese rolls, sushi, sandwiches and even heated options like soup and laksas.
“l see no limit to what might be offered,” Dr Mortimer said.