From food loss to healthier choice: Why vending machines are trending in new categories
In Japan, Nestle has collaborated with Minatoku to develop what they call food loss reduction boxes, mainly selling products that are still edible but may have passed the delivery deadline, and would have been discarded.
Products that will be sold in the vending machines include Nescafe bottled coffee, Nescafe instant coffee, Nestle matcha latte (stick-type), as well as Kit Kat, and these will cost lesser than retail.
“Nestle Japan aims to build a new channel for selling products that are still edible but face difficulties in ordinary distribution routes to consumers as an initiative that reduces food loss,” said Atsuhi Murata, assistant manager of media relations at Nestle Japan.
There are currently five such boxes located in Hokkaido, Tokyo, Aichi and Hiroshima, at post offices, train stations and office buildings.
“Nestle Japan will continue to operate five Food Loss Reduction Boxes for the time being, and after confirming and verifying the usage status of our customers and the opinions of the companies where they are installed, we will consider installing more units depending on the situation,” Murata added.
In Singapore, healthy packaged snack company Boxgreen has also ventured into the vending machine business.
The company makes a range of healthy snacks such as nut mix, mushroom chips, and soy crisps.
Traditional vending machines stock snacks, confectionery and drinks, although these are not necessarily healthy, so Boxgreen hopes its healthy snacks can offer an alternative.
“Boxgreen’s mission is to make snacking easy, fun and most importantly, easily accessible. So vending machines are something that we thought are in line with our mission, making our range of quirky and healthy snacks available on demand to new and current customers,” co-founder Andrew Lim said.
Boxgreen rolled out its first vending machine in 2017, and this year, deployed an additional 10 machines. Currently 10% of its total revenue is contributed by vending machine sales.
Most of the vending machines are deployed in corporate offices where the firm see a demand for healthier snacks in offices.
“Eating the right snacks does help to increase productivity level by keeping employees energised all day. Having them readily available means that employees are more likely to partake in the healthy eating trend,” Lim told FoodNavigator-Asia.
There are some machines located in tertiary institutions, gyms and country clubs.
Lim said the COVID-19 pandemic affected sales from vending machines since most people were working from home, “so we work with some of the companies to convert the vending machines budget into care packages that can be sent directly to employees’ homes.”
Frozen meat and seafood
In Singapore, there are also vending machines dispensing frozen meat and seafood.
EasyMeat is one company selling frozen and vacuum-packed Australian wagyu beef from its six vending machines across the city state.
Co-founder Mervin Tham said: “Singaporeans are generally tech savvy and have a sophisticated taste, so you not only see a wider range of products in vending machines, the value of the products is also increasing.
“They don’t just sell drinks and snacks, you can now buy clothes and high-priced items like chilli crabs. This suggests that people are willing to pay and have greater trust in buying from a metal box when sometimes they cannot even see the product. We saw that potential.
“There’s also the novelty factor of buying from vending machines, which is popular in Japan or Korea, so you get that overseas experience. In focus groups, we have found that people are receptive to this business concept,” said Tham.
Also in Singapore, Norwegian Salmon Pte Ltd which retails a range of seafood products in local supermarkets has deployed vending machines dispensing these products.
There are more than 100 machines or what it calls ‘ATMs’ located across the city, selling salmon fillet, smoked salmon, salmon sashimi and mackerel.
The vending machines are located primarily in neighbourhoods, and the company is exploring a global franchising option.