The future of vending machines in a post-pandemic world

It’s been over a year since the emergence of Covid-19 caused unprecedented disruption to life as we know it. 

The vending industry, like most others, took a huge hit during the pandemic. Despite playing a vital role in keeping key workers on the front line across the country fed during a time where other food-on-the-go options weren’t available, the impact of closures across other key sectors such as travel, education, leisure and commercial offices brought our industry to an almost complete halt. 

However, as lockdown restrictions continue to ease and our new normal sets in, we’re set to see an significant increase in demand for out-of-home and on-the-go dining experiences. 

As a result, the landscape for vending solutions is changing. The demand for safe, low contact access to high quality food and drink is on the rise – whether it’s at work, school, the hospital or on their travels – people want easy access to refreshments on-the-go. 

In turn, the global vending machine market is poised to grow by $9.33 Billion between 2021 and 2025, fuelled by this surge in demand for contactless, automated refreshment stations and vending machines. 

The role of technology in the future of vending 

Technology is playing a leading role in the growth in demand for vending machines, micro markets and refreshment stations. 

Cashless payments and contactless transactions via distance selection technology enables consumers to select and pay for their goods seamlessly with low to no contact. With stricter hygiene practices a top priority for many post-pandemic, and sanitisation stations set to stay as part of our new normal, long gone are the days of communal catering where cutlery and crockery are shared between staff. 

We expect to see more and more businesses making the swap to automated, contactless systems to cater to more flexible working conditions, with many taking a more balanced approach to time spent at home vs in the office. 

We recently installed a custom catering system including vending machines, a coffee station and water dispenser in Fenwick Newcastle’s staff canteen, indicating the demand for contactless catering is not limited to offices, but workplaces across a variety of sectors. Seen as a more cost-effective alternative to on-site catering and a step up from traditional vending, our bespoke options provide users with a huge range of tasty food, healthy snacks, and hot and cold drinks.

For catering and facilities managers, our unique telemetry system allows real-time access to your sales, stock and performance, boosting efficiency of restocking and machine maintenance. Not only does it take the guesswork out of refilling your machines and highlights top-performing products, it also allows for efficient replenishment, reducing unnecessary fuel consumption and contributing to a reduction in your carbon footprint.

On-the-go food and drink trends for 2021

Health conscious consumers

A 2020 survey conducted by FMCG Gurus found that 80% of consumers worldwide indicated they were planning to eat and drink more healthily in 2021 as a direct result of COVID-19. Although at present, our top performing food and drink products are as you’d expect in the convenience sector – crisps, confectionary and soft drinks – trends indicate a move towards incorporating healthier stock such as sugar free, low fat and high protein options alongside more traditional choices. 

The rise of vegans, vegetarians and flexitarians

For some time now, vegan and plant-based diets have been gaining popularity, a trend accelerated by the pandemic. From new and improved meat substitutes, to the expansion of the alternative milk market, innovation has been key in creating options that cater to changing lifestyles without compromising on flavour.

We can expect to see a diversification of on-the-go vegan product ranges, catering to vegetarians and vegans, plus the environmentally conscious consumers and flexitarians. 

Eco-conscious consumers

Although health was a major factor for many choosing to change their diets during the pandemic – whether it be the move to fully plant-based or a less rigid, flexitarian approach –  environmental concerns was another key driver. 

The entire supply chain is now under closer inspection from consumers on their path to purchase – from ingredient sourcing, production and manufacturing, to packaging, transportation and recycling. As a result, environmental considerations are of growing importance in the vending space, for suppliers, catering managers and consumers alike. 

As well as improved fuel efficiency with our telemetry stock management system, we ensure local sourcing where possible – our Coffee Vending machines and Water coolers are all manufactured in the UK, and our bottled water locally from Harrogate Spring Water – plus we offer recycling bins to sites for improved waste management.

Support local 

With a major push for supporting local businesses throughout the pandemic, and the rise of independent food and drink brands, future vending displays may be set to feature more SME FMCG brands alongside long-standing favourites like Walkers and Coca-Cola. As previously mentioned, Harrogate Spa Water is by far our most popular product to supply at Livewell, showing there is an appetite for quality, locally sourced products, and that they can compete with some of the biggest names in Vetail®. 

What’s next?

As technology continues to evolve, vending is shedding it’s old-school image of clunky functionality and coin counting, upgrading to a seamless, sleek new look. With touchscreens, telemetry, and contactless payments, it’s time for schools, hospitals, offices, universities and gyms to upgrade their on-the-go dining offer, catering to changing consumer needs and simplifying the stock management process. 

Visit our unique Solutions Wizard to see how we can help with your catering needs, it will identify options that are the perfect fit for you and the end consumers.  


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