farmersfridgeMid-afternoon hunger pains? Mid-morning snack attack? Forgot your lunch? Imagine walking up to a vending machine during a quick work break, swiping your credit card, and getting a fresh salad for lunch.  For those seeking healthy vending machine options, the wait may be over. Chicago’s Farmer’s Fridge is hoping to make fresh food a reality throughout the Windy City.

Don’t think of Farmer’s Fridge as an ordinary snack vending machine. You won’t find any packaged snacks here. According to its website, it’s really a veggie vending machine. Founder Luke Sanders stresses the importance of freshness in his machine’s products.

Starting with salads and products that are made by hand each morning after the daily 5 AM delivery of vegetables and packaged in special glass jars, the salads are taken to Farmer’s Fridge vending machines where they will be offered for sale. At 6 PM each evening, the products at Farmer’s Fridge are discounted by $1.00. When the next day’s delivery arrives, employees remove unsold products from the previous day, stocking the machine entirely with new product. Unsold product are donated to area homeless shelters.

These incredible products include a menu worthy of your favorite neighborhood eatery with salads, breakfast items, and protein pick me ups. For example,

  • Antioxidant Salad featuring mixed greens, goat cheese, mixed berries, almonds, carrot, sprouts and flaxseed with a balsamic vinaigrette
  • Detox Salad with organic kale, organic quinoa, sprouts, fennel, pineapple, blueberries, white beans and cider vinegar lemon dressing.
  • Greek Yogurt and Berries
  • Sliced apples with local honey and almond butter
  • Vegetable strips with hummus
  • Cauliflower Fried Rice with cauliflower, local peas, carrot, garlic and egg whites

Even the appearance of the Farmer’s Fridge vending machine is out of the ordinary. Saunders worked with a vending machine manufacturer to make his unique vision a reality. He envisioned a kiosk with sustainably sourced salads, environmentally responsible containers, and all at a reasonable cost. His machines are made from reclaimed wood, accepts all major credit cards, can email receipts, and features power consumption of less than $25 per month.

Saunders credits improvements in technology such as touch screens and less expensive credit card processing to his success. His company makes use of free technology like Google Docs to track recipes and inventory. Saunders also credits the city of Chicago for less expensive startup costs compared to other cities. For example the cost of the shared kitchen space his employees use daily to prepare product is about one-fifth of what it would be in New York City.

The ability to offer his products in an automated kiosk appealed to Saunders. While he estimates that his labor costs are very similar to those of a brick and mortar restaurants, the flexibility offered by a vending machine played a key factor in his decision. Given that vending machines are everywhere, having healthy options is a must for new players with ideas for a snack or drink vending machine.  Having expanded from three to 14 machines throughout Chicago in a single year, Saunders is proof that fresh sells.

cashless vending

Organizations all over the world have long been looking for new and unique ways to innovate with regards to the types of vending machine products that they rely heavily on daily. When these types of machines are available in many public places wherever you go, it can be difficult for a vending machine manufacturer to really stand out in a crowd. One of the major innovations of the last decade was a machine that accepted credit and debit cards in addition to cash. Now, many companies are moving towards the idea of completely cashless vending for the benefit of consumers everywhere.

What is Cashless Vending?

Thought it may be logical to assume that cashless vending is “just” a vending machine that also takes credit or debit cards, this isn’t entirely accurate. A true cashless vending solution will also accept the types of mobile payment systems that customers are embracing today, like Apple Pay and similar services. Users can swipe their smartphone near an NFC reader located on the machine itself to automatically deduct money from an associated account. This makes the entire vending process easier and more secure than it has ever been.

Greenlite by Vending.com

greeliteOne bold example of this type of technology at work is the new Greenlite system by Vending.com. It’s a turn-key cashless solution that relies instead on the latest card and mobile payment systems, along with the type of web-based reporting and management tools that allow businesses to increase their return on investment in a very significant way.

One of the biggest advantages of the Greenlite system has to do with the type of machine sales tracking that it offers businesses. In the “old days” of vending machines, you essentially had to use your best judgment regarding which types of products you should be ordering and in what quantities. With machine sales tracking, you now have actionable, real-time information regarding trends, likes and dislikes that are all derived from actual consumer behavior. You can not only tell what products are selling but how quickly and at what times of the day. Businesses no longer have to rely solely on “instinct’ when it comes to making purchasing decisions – they now have actual hard data that they can use instead.

Greenlite also allows businesses to integrate two-tier pricing depending on location. A business might offer a discount on certain items for people who choose to pay with cash, for example. The system also includes helpful alerts that will provide constant updates on the health and status of the machine in question, making it easier to identify when repairs are necessary and when replacement parts need to be ordered.


apple-pay-vendingThough there are a few different mobile payment services that are available on the market today, Apple Pay is undoubtedly the most widely used and the one with the highest potential. This is thanks to the fact that it is built into the hundreds of millions of iPhones that are sold in the United States alone each year. For those unfamiliar, mobile payment is a relatively new type of technology that allows you to pay for goods and services not using cash or even a credit or debit card, but through information stored on your smartphone, tablet or similar type of device.

In theory, mobile payment and traditional plastic credit and debit cards really aren’t all that different. Account information is stored on a magnetic strip on the back of your credit card, which is then read by a card reader at the register when you check out. Necessary information about the payment is sent to your bank, at which point the associated account is debited. Mobile payment operates almost identically, only instead of storing information on a card it’s stored digitally on your phone. Instead of being transmitted through magnetic tape, it is sent to the point of sale via near field communication, or NFC. This is also much more secure as a phone can be used with certain biometric sensors, passwords and other features that cards can’t utilize.

It is NFC that will allow snack vending machine kiosks and other smart vending machine providers around the country to begin accepting Apple Pay and other types of mobile payment in the near future. USA Technology is an industry leading provider of vending machines to companies all around the country. They’re committed to not only adding near field communication capabilities to vending machines in the future, but also to devices like parking meters, washing machines, kiosks and more.

This move will allow users all over the United States to use Apple Pay at over 200,000 different self serve locations. This is a huge benefit for Apple Pay in particular, as it is facing steep competition from other mobile payment services like the Google Wallet. CurrentC is another competing technology that is just on the horizon that already has the support of some of the biggest companies on Earth, like Walmart. The addition of near field communication and Apple Pay compatible to vending machines in particular benefits nobody more than consumers, however, as they now have one less reason to carry cash, coins or even credit around with them if they don’t want to.


smoothieToday’s vending machines are more versatile than ever. One Kansas City teen has his eye on building a new type of machine.  Marshall Green started an IndieGogo campaign to fund the development of a unique drink vending machine that would provide custom made smoothies from fresh ingredients stored within the machine.

Green noticed a need for fresh, nutritious choices as a wrestler in high school. He realized that in the long hours spent at school and practice, normal vending machine snacks and drinks offered at his school weren’t sufficient to sustain him throughout the afternoon. On his IndieGogo page, Green wrote, “But like most kids going from 7am to 5pm, I need real, substantial snacks and meals to get me through the day. Unfortunately, chips from the vending machine aren’t nutritious enough, and granola bars just aren’t substantial enough.”  His idea came about from the realization that his fellow students and athletes were in the same predicament. They needed readily accessible healthy snack options later in the day.

Green loves the taste of smoothies but notes that they are messy to make at home and impossible to make so far ahead of time. He is planning to work with a vending machine manufacturer to develop a vending machine that will store frozen smoothie ingredients, such as fruit, juice, and milk, and allow customers to create their own custom smoothies. He calls his concept Fresh&Blended and believes it will be a success in academic, library, fitness center, and office settings where customers seek healthier alternatives.

His Fresh&Blended design would allow customers to actually see the fresh fruit they have selected before the drink vending machine blends it for them delivering a cold, healthy drink.  According to Green, customers can see that “there is no added sugar like other smoothie products. Fruit, vegetables, and juice or milk-plain and simple.”  Green believes that delivering excellent nutrition to people on the go will help them achieve their best at school, home, and work.

According to Green, the fact that he is a teenager is irrelevant. He describes his concept as an “idea that I’m all in on, and when I get behind something it really drives and pushes me forward.”  If he can secure the funding, his plan is to have smoothie drink vending machines in locations throughout Kansas City in seven to eight months.




SAP-Connected-Retail-VIDEO-12-11-2014-2Vending machines are changing – and for the better. According to Forbes, you won’t even be able to recognize vending machines in just a few years. So what is expected to change?  The way we buy and how we buy items from vending machines.

To start with, expect to see healthier food items, especially in snack vending machines and drink vending machines. People want healthier food options and are more willing to eat or drink something from a vending machine that will make them feel good, while giving them the energy boost they need to get on with their day. In fact, many vending machines have begun to post calorie labels on their food and drink items.

So what else can these vending machines do?

According to Forbes, the future of vending is so smart, that these machines will be able to use facial recognition. In fact, the machine will be able to greet customers, remember their preferences, and even refuse to sell an item to a customer based on age or medical records.

In addition, vending machines are taking hold of the cashless trend as many people prefer to purchase items with a credit card or debit card. To take it a step further, customers won’t even need to have a credit or debit card to purchase items from snack and drink vending machines in the future. All you need is an iPhone 6. And if your phone’s battery is nearly dead, don’t worry, most smart vending machines come equipped with an iPhone charging station – so you can snack while your charge your phone. Also, all payment information is never stored, protecting customers from fraud.

With the customer taken care of, that just leaves the vending machine operators.Long gone will be the days when operators had to physically check every snack vending machine at each different location.  Instead, with smart technology, inventory data can be stored and tracked.  This means that the operator will know exactly when to refill their machines and with what products.

But what makes these vending machines even more unique is their level of interaction. By offering loyalty cards, cell phone charging stations, apps that help customers locate vending machines, and social media sharing options, vending machines are becoming a trendy way to quickly get healthy food and drink, particularly in schools.

While technology is constantly changing the way we interact with our world, with each other, and even with our food and drink, it’s no surprise then that vending machines are also transforming to suit our smart, modern lives.

Vending machines are transforming to offer healthy options, cashless purchasing, and can even recognize your face.

healthy vending optionsAs the Shelby County School (SCS) board prepares to vote on whether or not to bring vending machines into their schools, parents and students have mixed feelings; and for good reason.  Vending machines have traditionally been stocked with candy, chips, soda, and other junk foods high in fat, sugar, and carbs.

However, if the proposal is approved, the SCS plans to stock their vending machines with healthy choices for not just snacks, but for breakfast and lunch as well, something that is catching on across the country. The vending machines would be stocked daily by the school’s special education students. This means that while the food is guaranteed fresh, those students who stock the machines are learning job skills as well.

So why the idea of having a school vending machine in the first place?  According to Kevin Woods, a Shelby School board member,  “This is not to eliminate any possible positions, it’s just simply to allow more people to get through the process quicker and to have more options without having to wait in long lines”.

If the proposal goes through, the vending machines would be tested in White Station, Whitehaven, and Wood Dale schools by offering free lunches.  This could also ease the minds of some parents and students who are less than enthusiastic about getting school lunch from a vending machine.

However, some vending machine companies, such as Healthier Vending, do in fact offer healthy school breakfast, lunch, and snack programs that not only encourage healthier choices, but also encourage academic achievement all while meeting any school’s nutritional requirements.

For example, Iowa started the Healthy Kids Act to help eliminate childhood obesity by offering healthy vending machine in their elementary, middle and high schools. Drink vending machines, for example, offer nonfat and low fat milk, vegetable juice, and 100 percent fruit juice inside of sugary juices and http://www.healthiervending.com/ sodas.

Although it is not known for sure exactly what items would go in the vending machine if they were approved, some of the more popular items we now see in snack vending machines throughout the country are healthy granola bars and Cliff bars as well as yogurt.  Healthy drink vending machines also see the V8 brand vegetable and fruit juices as well as water.  For lunch, options may include a fresh salad, freshly made sandwich, soup, and a variety of fruit.  For breakfast, options may include cereal, breakfast sandwiches and also a variety of fresh fruit.

While school vending machines may be something both parents and students will need to get use to, the fact remains that they save time, money, and in the end, offer more options and healthier choices. Vending machines have become the future’s alternative to the traditional school lunch line.

Schools are getting rid of the lunch line in favor of healthy vending machines.


orca_tap1King County Metro Transit is taking a bold step into the 21st century – at least as far as passengers are concerned. To help ease some of the stress on existing infrastructure, KCMT is putting a bus ticket dispensing vending machine on Third Avenue located conveniently between Stewart and Pine street in Seattle, WA. The hope is that instead of pushing money into the farebox as traditionally accomplished, users will instead use the vending machine to accomplish the same thing.

By pairing with a vending machine manufacturer for the bus ticket vending machine, King County Metro Transit hopes to accomplish a few different goals at the same time. For starters, it adds a supplementary source of bus tickets that will hopefully relieve some stress during already crowded transit times. Additionally, the farebox has long been seen as a major source of delays for travelers in a number of different situations. Fumbling to cram cash into the front slot of the farebox can add several seconds to the D Line or E Line, for example. When you multiply “several seconds” by the thousands of passengers that pass through those areas on a regular basis, serious delays can occur as a result.

Metro indicates that there are currently around one tenth of the total number of passengers that go through the stop that pay with cash. To put that into perspective, more than 42,000 passengers use that stop to take 2,500 bus trips each weekday. Even if the vending machine is only accommodating one tenth of those customers, you’re still talking about 4,200 people every day.

A concern about the practice, however, has to do with whether or not the vending machine will undercut the sale of regional ORCA cards. These fare cards are designed to be purchased in advance and used in much the same way E-ZPass is for drivers. You pay in advance to “fill” the card, swipe the card when you arrive and go about your way. If the vending machine manufacturer’s solution is just as easy, it may harm that particular program.

The Metro program puts a twist on the traditional “vending machine for sale” process. Instead of purchasing the machines outright, the machine is being loaned for use completely free of charge. Additionally, the county will pay a $10,000 regular fee to cover maintenance and general operational costs directly to the vending machine manufacturer. Much of that cost will be taken care of by a federal grant, however.

Vending machines certainly aren’t just for potato chips anymore. With examples like the way that metro is putting bus ticket vending machines to excellent use on Third Avenue, it’s easy to see why more and more industries are embracing the technology on a large scale.

Healthy-Vending-MachineFor many people who wish to live healthier lifestyles, one of the biggest obstacles has always been the workplace. Depending on how busy your days are, you may not necessarily have time to run to the nearest healthy source of food during your lunch hour. Fast food, which is among the least healthiest food possible, may be the best option. Worse yet, even companies that have traditionally said that they encourage healthy activities in their employees usually stock vending machines filled with high calorie, low quality items for those workers to consume. The snack vending machine has long been the bane of existence to everyone who just wants to watch what they eat and lose a little weight while on the job.

That is, until now. Research has indicated that companies that make an active effort to make employee health a priority are showing an enormous return on investment when these types of programs are initiated in conjunction with a Healthy Vending Machine.

Vending machines in general are notorious for dispensing foods that are high in trans fats, filled to the brim with synthetic ingredients and include other unhealthy qualities that make it difficult to eat right while at work. Many vending machine manufacturers have started offering nutritious alternatives that are designed only to vend low fat, low carbohydrate and low sugar products. These are not limited to snacks – these can include drinks and even full meals depending on the specifics of the program in question.

The return on investment that companies are seeing for making employee health a priority falls into a few different categories depending on the situation. The most obvious is that employer health insurance premiums are directly related to the health of their workers. If your employees are only making poor food decisions all day, premiums will eventually go up as a result. Studies have indicated that not only are these premiums not going up, but they’re actually being lowered in many cases. Many employers have created employee-driven health groups designed to manage these initiatives in the workplace.

Additionally, the vending machines themselves are becoming a viable source of income for many businesses. Employees who are already trying to live health conscious lifestyles are enthusiastically using these types of machines at a higher frequency than ever.

One great example of this type of program in action is Vending.com’s Healthy Vending program. Vending.com is a vending machine manufacturer that has been in operation since 1931. In addition to selling specially designed vending machines that dispense food, snacks, coffee and everything in between, they are also doing their part to promote healthy eating in the workplace by way of the Healthy Vending program.


laguardiaGovernor Andrew Cuomo of New York recently unveiled an exciting new type of snack vending machine that highlights healthy choices, supports local agriculture, and benefits the Food Bank of Central New York and the New York Commission for the Blind’s Enterprise Program. The Taste NY snack and drink vending machines debuted at the recent New York State Fair.

These exciting new vending machines break away from standard snack offerings to provide healthy choices from local producers. The vending machines are to be installed at select rest areas throughout the state of New York. Travelers will make their snack and drink choices among offerings from Chobani, Emmy’s Organics, Heluva Good Cheese curds and string cheese, Red Jacket Orchard juices, Barkeater Chocolates, Sweet Sam’s Cookies, and other local purveyors.

Governor Cuomo is hoping that in addition to promoting healthy snacking habits, the Taste NY program will support and broaden the audience from some of the state’s finest food producers. According to the Governor, “The Taste NY Program is continuing to raise the profile of many of our world class brands, and I encourage all New Yorkers – whether at the State Fair this week or on a drive across the state this fall – to be on the lookout for these tremendous products.”

These vending machines will offer more than unique snacks to weary travelers. According to John Murn, Vice President of the New York State Vending Machine Association, “These state-of-the-art machines will feature a rotating selection of food and beverages that represent the diversity and creativity from producers across the State. Highlights from these machines will include video clips from New York based companies as well as Taste NY videos.”

In addition to healthy fare, the Taste NY snack and drink vending machine program will benefit two state charitable programs. The machines will be maintained by participants in the New York Commission for the Blind’s Enterprise Program. New York State Commission for the Blind Associate Commissioner Brian Daniels said, “The Commission for the Blind makes self-sufficiency for legally blind New Yorkers its top priority, and we are thrilled to… provide new jobs and provide more opportunities for individuals who are blind to achieve independence.”

Proceeds from the machines will used to support the efforts of the Food Bank of Central New York which provides food for over 11 million meals each year to the state’s residents.

The Taste NY snack vending machines will highlight a rotation of products from the larger Taste NY program. More information on the initiative is available at taste.ny.gov.




instagram iheartradioEver thought of promoting a brand by offering merchandise in exchange for social media exposure? That’s exactly what’s happening on an iHeartRadio tour featuring a t-shirt vending company that accepts Instagram photos as payment for merchandise.

The marketing campaign is targeting college students by setting up these vending machines at the Universities they visit throughout the Midwest and South.

How does it work?

  • The consumer touches the screen
  • Retrieves a unique four-digit code
  • Takes an Instagram photo
  • Tags it with hashtag #iHeartRadio followed by the unique four-digit code
  • Retrieves their swag – either iHeartRadio t-shirts or iHeartRadio emblazoned sunglasses.
  • The Instagram photo can then be shared and re-shared all over social media, including Instragram, Twitter, and Facebook.

It’s that simple.

The days of setting up tables and tents and giving away pens and magnets to promote brands are over. Instead of trying to lure consumers to temporary tents and trying to unload free stuff, vending machine companies have really come up with a genius marketing campaign that attracts consumers directly to the vending machine like magnets and then gets them to interact and spread their message.

The idea of interacting with the vending machine using social media is truly novel. And although the merchandise is essentially free, the consumer has to put some effort in, but the effort is something fun, something he or she likes to do anyway, whether or not they get a free pair of sunglasses.

Social media vending machines can be rented or bought from vending machine manufacturers and companies, which are integrating this technology as an innovative new way to enhance a brand’s awareness and visibility. Additionally, social media vending machines for sale may also include a used vending machine, lowering the initial investment to get your brand or service out there.

This is a fun way for people to share photos, which is something they like to do anyway, and then receive something free in return. The benefit for brands that participate in this campaign is also quite significant. After all, who wouldn’t brag about getting a t-shirt, sunglasses or keychain just for sharing a photo? This creates an interactive buzz about products and brands that will reach much further than any type of traditional advertisement or television commercial.

So are vending machines that exchange swag for Instagram photos the wave of the future? Time will tell, but there are few who would turn down this easy way to score some free stuff!