TOKYO: Japan is seeing an increase in the number of vending machines that sell items other than drinks, as businesses seek to take advantage of the benefit of not having to come into close contact with customers.
“Gyudon” beef-on-rice meals, “ikura” salmon roe and flowers are just some of the items being sold in machines, as restaurants forced to close on a temporary basis amid the novel coronavirus crisis increasingly turn to the technology.
Customers also benefit, by being able to purchase goods at any time and not having to worry about others looking at what they buy. Some are turning to luxury dishes being sold from vending machines.
Vending machine maker Sanden Retail Systems Corp. sold over 1,000 units of the machine for frozen foods, which it started retailing in January 2021, by the end of September that year.
Restaurants were among its main buyers, with a wide variety of products such as ikura, beef tongues, hamburger steaks and cakes being stocked.
“Many people make purchases because they want to enjoy a specialty restaurant taste, even if it is expensive,” a company representative said. “This is leading to an expansion of stores’ customer base.”
Sanden hopes that vending machines are accepted and adopted further as a new avenue for food sales.
Hibiya-Kadan Floral Co. set up temporary vending machines for flowers at Shinjuku Station and commercial facilities in Tokyo last year. It said that single flowers were popular as home decorations and as gifts.
“There were many male purchasers, thanks to the ease with which people could choose the flowers for themselves,” a company representative said.
Matsuya Foods Holdings Co. set up a vending machine for frozen “gyudon” toppings and curry at its Minami-sunamachi store in Tokyo last November. The company expects customers to buy such goods to stock at home, and it plans to introduce the machines at other stores as well in the future.
Meanwhile, sales of beverages in regular vending machines fell amid the coronavirus crisis, especially at machines located in train stations and tourist attractions.
The number of such machines is on the decrease, with an official of one major beverage maker saying that it is “focusing on the busiest machines to boost efficiency.”