Typically when we write about vending machines, it’s in the context of quickly feeding lots of people in high-traffic areas: airports, office buildings, hospitals, etc. We don’t generally think of vending machines in the bucolic farmlands of rural France, but now we might start.
Barron’s has a story up this week about Le Casier Francais, which makes automat-style vending machines. The company has seen a surge in interest from farmers this year thanks to the pandemic. The vending machines allow farms to sell fruits, vegetables, eggs and more directly to consumers who, thanks to COVID, prefer to interact with a vending machine rather than go inside a farm store.
Le Casier Francais machines aren’t cheap, costing between €40,000-50,000 (~ $48,000 – $60,000 USD). But as Barron’s reports, farmers are recouping their investment pretty quickly. One such farmer says he generated between €10,000 – 15,000 (~ $12,000 – $18,000 USD) per month.
Though farms aren’t the first place to spring to mind when thinking about vending machines, the idea actually makes a lot of sense. First, the pandemic has both sellers and buyers thinking of more contactless retail experiences like unattended vending machines. Second, vending machines give people access to fresh food 24 hours a day. And, because farms are selling direct, goods can be sold for less than they would cost at the grocery store.
But perhaps the biggest reason vending machines on farms makes sense is that the entire vending machine category is evolving into something completely new and modern. They aren’t just hulking metal boxes filled with coils of packaged cookies and gum sitting in dimly lit alcoves. Companies like Yo-Kai are serving complex dishes like hot ramen from vending machines, while Chowbotics and Fresh Bowl offer access to healthy, fresh salads.
What these French farmers illustrate is that when it comes to vending machines, we shouldn’t just think about putting them where the people are, we should also be putting them where the food is.