- Vending machines are experiencing a surge in popularity, The Washington Post and others report.
- Firms are selling items ranging from cannoli kits to grab-and-go frogs.
- In some countries, people can pick up a COVID-19 testing kit and dinner at the same time.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
New technologies and social distancing measures have spawned a revolution in the retail industry as a response to changing consumer demands.
As The Washington Post and others reported, vending machines, computerized kiosks, and other take-out technologies, otherwise known as “unattended retail” are supplying consumers with gourmet pizza, cannoli kits, and vacuum-packed meat.
Carla Balakgie, the chief executive of the National Automatic Merchandising Association, was quoted in the Post report, explaining the increased popularity of vending machines.
She said: “It’s touchless, it’s considered safe and it’s prepackaged so products haven’t been fondled and breathed on. And technology has made it even safer: Some machines have a hover feature so you don’t have to touch the buttons and you can use an app on your phone or use mobile ordering.”
In Europe, vending machines sell almost everything. From $25 pasta kits that feed up to four people, to cannoli kits and jars of tiramisu, customers are spoilt for choice when it comes to grab-and-go food.
As always, the French never fail to breakthrough with their culinary innovations. The Auberge du Château de Vaite restaurant, located near Besançon, has begun selling their local seasonal delicacy, grenouille (frogs), to customers through vending machines, WorldCrunch reported. The frogs come ready to cook or prepared with cream and wine.
In Japan, 4.1 million vending machines have been deployed amid the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to an epic selection of food and drink products, citizens can also buy rapid testing kits from the machines. The initiative is designed to prevent crowding at public and private healthcare facilities, according to a report published by Gizmochina.
Although vending machines are more popular than they have ever been, they are not the only convenience food trend that has been driven by the pandemic. Multinationals including KFC, Burger King, and Smashburger are also turning to food lockers.
In their most basic sense, food lockers are devices that are used to store food, often for customers to collect. The trend has been around for far longer than the outbreak of the virus, just like vending machines, but they have gained a new lease of life recently.
In a previous interview with Insider, Tom Ferguson Jr., the CEO of US chain Rise Southern Biscuits & Righteous Chicken, explained why he was using them.
He said: “We just want people to feel safe, regardless of how they perceive the virus. Not only do the food lockers provide a contactless transaction, they also add convenience. The biggest plus for us at Rise is it’s freed us to focus on the culture in our kitchen that makes running a restaurant worth it.”