Most people probably think of vending machine companies as offering snacks, drinks, and some useful odds and ends. They machines are part of the background, handing when needed but otherwise not given much thought. But even though people may take them for granted, vending machines are far from stagnating. Growth in the market is accelerating, with an estimated CAGR of 17% for the period 2019-2023 but a predicted growth rate of over 26% for 2023. Expect a market value increase of around $10 billion over the next 4 years.
The increasing number of options for cashless transactions is helping to drive business for vending machine companies, making it easier for customers to purchase items without having cash on hand. The machines are also becoming increasingly popular in the retail sector, as they’re self-serve and don’t require staff on hand to help customers check out.
However, another factor influencing the market is innovation. Snacks and drinks may be common fare, but they’re not the only products being sold. Around the world, consumers can find everything from branded merchandise, hot soup, bait, and even things like live crabs or solid gold. While Japan has a reputation for strange and interesting vending machines, it doesn’t have a monopoly on them. From the US to Saudi Arabia to Singapore, vending machine companies are finding new and creative ways to do business. Here are some of the more unusual things being sold in vending machines today.
In Dubai? Looking for a last-minute present? Then S*uce Gifts has you covered. This vending machine offers several different items to choose from, including scented candles, perfume, and lingerie. The items also come wrapped in a gold gift bag, so no need to hunt for wrapping paper.
Gold to Go
Also in Dubai (as well as Saudi Arabia, the US, and elsewhere) is a vending machine that sells 24-karat gold. Customers can buy gold in several different forms, including bars, coins, and jewelry.
Taking the gift idea even further, the Bankside Hotel in London offers vending machines full of ROKUS engagement rings for people looking to make a spur-of-the-moment proposal.
Art-o-mat vending machines are converted from cigarette machines to sell original art. There are over 100 of them across the US, boasting creations by 400 artists from 10 different countries. They dispense small, affordable pieces such as paintings, figures, jewelry, and more.
Sprinkles Cupcake ATM
Art isn’t the only interesting thing to be found in US vending machines. US cupcake chain Sprinkles Cupcakes has several ATMs across the country that offer fresh cupcakes in a variety of flavors, 24 hours a day.
Moving across the Pacific to China and Japan, you can find vending machines that sell actual living creatures. These machines offer live crabs along with vinegar and ginger tea to accompany them.
Keeping with the theme of fresh food, rural Japan is home to egg vending machines. These machines allow small farmers to sell their produce without traveling into the city or spending time running a stall, and customers get an easy way to buy local goods.
Never mind a snack or fresh ingredients, FEBO is a Dutch company that will sell you an entire meal through vending machines. Everything is made in-house, but all purchases are done through the machines.
Suggested reading: Food Delivery Market: Technological Advances Facilitating Market Growth
This one may be a little more mundane, but it’s a smart idea. If you find yourself needing to leave Japan’s Suidobashi Station in the pouring rain, this vending machine has your back.
Fresh pizza probably sounds even more unlikely than fresh cupcakes, but Let’s Pizza is one of several vending machine companies to offer it. The machine does just about everything from scratch, including stretching the dough, adding fresh toppings, and baking the pizza. It offers several different types of pizza and can hold enough ingredients for 100 orders. Let’s Pizza can be found in Italy and in other locations around the world.
As marijuana becomes legal in more parts of the US and globally, vending machine companies are taking notice. Washington state’s first marijuana vending machine is called ZaZZZ, and it boasts climate control and age verification. Colorado also has its own weed vending machines, offering a variety of different products to suit customer preferences.
Suggested reading: What’s in Store for the North American Cannabis Industry in 2020?
Moving back to the practical side of things, there are at least two vending machines in North America aimed at people who need a reprieve from their high heels. Canadian company Save Our Solez and American vendor Flat Out of Heels both dispense flats to those who are looking for a little relief.
Plan B Contraceptive
Students at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania can buy the morning-after pill from a vending machine, along with other products such as condoms and pregnancy tests. It provides easy access to contraception, and offers a self-serve option for products that can generate a lot of stigma and embarrassment.
The Monkey Paw in Toronto, Canada is home to the Biblio-Mat, a machine that dispenses random unique old books. It’s not the only book vending machine out in the world, however. Several North American libraries are lending books through vending machines, for example, and the National Museum of Singapore sells a wide range of books from its own machine.
The Mystery Box
For those who like to gamble, there are mystery box vending machines. Chengdu, China is home to the Lucky Box machine, but other places offer their own take on the concept. Make your purchase and find out what you’ve bought once it comes out of the machine.
Want to learn more about innovations in the global vending machine industry? Pick up Technavio’s market research report for in-depth analysis on key drivers, trends, and vending machine companies, as well as predictions of the market’s size and growth in different regions around the world.