Ghida Sarieddine, director of special projects at Royal Catering explains how the humble vending machine has been revamped to offer guilt-free, instant fulfillment.
Over the years, the vending machine has undergone quite a transformation – from a coin-operated, junk food icon, to an important distribution strategy for companies looking for a cost-effective way to get their products to customers.
In fact, nowadays, you can find almost anything in a vending machine and the one thing all the products have in common is that they are strategically placed in convenient locations that are relevant to the product being sold.
Healthy, fresh food vending machines, offering hot and cold options, are on the rise in offices, university cafeterias and busy waiting rooms.
And why is this so? There are a few reasons actually, so let’s explore. Firstly, food and beverage vending machines are a grab-and-go concept.
What this means is that in a fast-paced environment, a conveniently placed vending machine immediately satisfies needs and enables customers to experience instant fulfillment.
They offer flexibility, don’t take up much space, and can be easily moved to high traffic, convenient locations. And as long as they are in an accessible area, and have access to an electrical point, they are good to go.
In addition, when compared to traditional retail solutions such as shops in a mall or on a street-front, vending machines are a lower cost option. The real estate is cheaper – naturally; the less space you use, the lower your rent.
Furthermore, because the real estate is cheaper, brands can afford to sell more products in more locations – thereby having the dual advantage of increasing brand awareness and exposure through multiple vending machine outlets.
One of the biggest cost savings, perhaps, is that aside from the stocking and maintenance of the vending machine, there are no other labour costs associated with the day-to-day operation of the machine – with service and payment the responsibility of the customer.
Also, they are designed with strong advertising value in mind and branded according to specifications. However, they can be designed in a way to complement the space they are in, or sit complementary to other machines that offer alternative options.
This means the branding element can remain strong and the competitive landscape is somewhat controlled.
One of the greatest transformations and trends with the grab-and-go vending machine concept, however, is the growing inclination customers have towards healthy options.
More and more, customers want to sustain an active lifestyle and access nutritious food without compromising on quality.
So, suppliers need to think differently, creatively, and nutritionally – supporting public awareness of the connection between health and food.
Customers are looking for solutions for breakfast, lunch, dinner and everything in between. Salads, nutrient-rich sandwiches, vegetarian, gluten-free, and dairy-free options are in higher demand than ever.
And so, as we watch the same old vending machine tap into a whole new market, we do so knowing that this dynamic distribution point will continue to grow and change over the years – but all the time, responding to customer preferences for better choices.
About the author:
Ghida Sarieddine is director of special projects for Abu Dhabi-based homegrown company, Royal Catering, which is currently introducing its new 82L8 grab-and-go food and beverage concept, offering healthy options for busy lifestyles.