Being capable of delivering junk food, fizzy drinks, cigarettes, and even alcoholic beverages, vending machines are capital-T trouble. Academic research teams often receive credit for self-evident facts, but their purpose is, after all, to verify hypotheses. Journalist Daniel Westlake wrote,
According to a study by the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, vending machines stocked with unhealthy options for young people often help lead to unhealthy eating habits.
Vending machines are a notoriously problematic means of distribution, with drawbacks like mechanical issues, quality and condition of the products, and of course cleanliness. Question for the reader: When is the last time you witnessed someone cleaning the inside or outside of a vending machine? We thought as much.
Customers have actually gotten sick. Westlake adds,
Sometimes food in these machines can melt, spill or go bad, in the machine which can draw insects and rodents to the machine… Every few weeks, open up the machine and clean it so that there are no bits or food or dust which may have accumulated on the products… Clean the tray where the snacks or items fall, as this is the area where most of the food refuse may be located if their packaging breaks. Clean the buttons since many people’s fingers are probably dirty.
(But what about the cleaning solution being sprayed into the closed environment occupied by food that people will in all likelihood not wash before eating? Just asking.)
There could be other obstacles to popularity. Not everyone enjoys cold fruit. Many kinds of fruit are much more tasty at room temperature. Not everyone has the teeth to deal with anything more resilient than a banana or a melon cube.
What happens to fresh produce in this setting? The enormous waste ratio was a recognized drawback in 2010, and likely still is. In that year a major vending machine manufacturer teamed up with a major fruit corporation to tackle the problems. A two-minute video produced by the company explains temperature variation, the food elevator, and other features of their machine.
In the following year, as a random example, one company publicized its 400 fresh-fruit vending machines in 25 states. Gil Sanchez, owner of Vend Natural, described his philosophy to a reporter, who wrote,
Vending machines are part of the solution for childhood obesity, he said. About 96% of his machines are in schools.
A piece at Organics.org describes next-level vending machines in Scotland that are a combination snack bar and farmers market, along with some other technological marvels. No more will be said about that article here because it really deserves to be absorbed in all its profusion of detail.
These are the rather extravagant claims made by a rival company whose vending machines dispense canned fruit:
Fresh fruits are likely to lose nutrients when they are exposed to air. This doesn’t happen with canned fruits… A lot of people buy canned fruits from vending machines for its “liquid” […] All canned fruits are packed with plenty of liquid syrup. The syrup has extra sugar and calories… Nutrients from this liquid syrup will keep you revitalized and energetic… Economically, canned fruits are several times cheaper than fresh fruits too.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Problems with Vending Machines,” BizFluent.com, 09/26/17
Source: “The Great Banana Challenge,” WSJ.com, 10/21/10
Source: “Vending machines offer major growth for fruit, vegetables,” ThePacker.com, 05/17/11
Source: “These Vending Machines Serve Fresh Veggies Instead of Junk Food,” Organics.org, 05/07/19
Source: “What? Fruit in a Vending Machine?,” ImperialCo.com, 02/27/16
Photo credit: Jonathan Lidbeck on Visualhunt/CC BY