Fad or Future

Salad days: how vending machines are getting in on the healthy food-to-go offering

With fresh greens increasingly finding themselves perched in healthy vending machines Stateside, will the UK soon follow suit?

13 April 2018

Vending machines – not usually associated with a nutritious diet. However, while that’s normally the case in the UK, food dispensers worldwide are known to be a little different, offering everything from milk to ready meals.

And in line with the healthy-eating trend currently gripping the planet, there is an ever-growing number of prospering vending-machine companies that sell freshly made salads – especially in the US.

One such company, Farmer’s Fridge, has been enjoying success around Chicago and Milwaukee, where it currently has 120 vending machines full of recyclable jars of freshly prepared salads. Using an algorithm, the company is able to work out how much produce to prepare for each location, with leftovers donated at the end of the day.

Such has been the response from consumers that the owners plan to double the number of machines this year alone.

Meanwhile, another more fledgling business, Alpaca Market, is making waves in Texas with their nutrition-orientated meals, serving everything from lavender honey chicken salads to galettes from a machine. The founders previously owned a number of McDonald’s franchises before dramatically changing tack last year.

So with the salad-vending market in the UK currently inhabited by a handful of niche companies focused on a small number of sites, is there an opportunity to start a new trend?

Not-so-usual suspects

Healthy-style vending machines can be found in the UK, but fresh salad ones are a real rarity. Mother is one such rarity, with a small number of high-tech machines around London serving fresh wraps, soups, salads and snacks – all for under a fiver.

The products are made daily in a production kitchen, with the Mother team looking to push office workers away from the usual crisps and chocolate bar mentality and towards a more nutritional desk diet.

Healthy Nibbles is a more common style of good food dispenser, providing alternative snack options around offices and gyms in London. We’re talking things like lentil puffs, cacao and coconut bars and hummus chips.

They also work closely with individual companies to provide tailored snack boxes and hampers to accommodate dietary requirements and needs.

SnackFit, Eat Real and the Healthy Vending Company are other examples of niche operations targeting offices, gyms and even schools and hospitals with a similar concept.

Shelf-stable snacks are a solid sector in the UK, but more sophisticated ways to deliver fresh nutritional bites have lots of room for growth.

Over the pond, where another, slightly wackier version of a salad vending machine is making its industry debut this month in Vegas: Sally the Salad Robot. Capable of churning out individual options in around a minute using a combination of 22 different ingredients, Sally intends to go ‘on tour’ across the country this year. 

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