We can always appreciate the little things in life, a cold drink during the summer, warm coffee in the mornings, and vending machines conveniently placed in our packed offices and buildings. Vending machines have been around for a while, serving various trinkets from candy bars, sodas, tobacco and electronics in more recent years.
Today, vending operations in the US have become a $36 billion industry, with cold drinks as the country’s top sellers back in 1999, with accumulated sales of over $15 billion. Today, vending machines account for significant sales figures and profits of snack and beverage makers.
They generate 14% of food sales in 2000 from businesses, schools, hospitals and other institutions where vending machines can find their way into.
As we all know, most vending machines typically dispense food and beverages, but what was the first item to be sold in this fashion? The first “vending machine” dates back to around 215 b.c. and was invented by a mathematician.
Yup. It was a device that accepted bronze coins to dispense holy water in Alexandria temples. Fast forward to approximately 1076 where the Chinese also developed coin-operated contraptions that released pencils.
Fast forward to the 1880s (almost the same time as the United States) where vending machines started early operations in London. Percival Everitt was the man credited for their creation for people to buy envelopes and notecards near postal stations.
In The United States
Commercial vending in the US started as early as the late 1880s when machines were first used to expand chewing gum sales in New York City. Shortly, it expanded into other types of candy until 1926 with the emergence of cigarette vending machines and the start of soft drink vending in 1937.
During the second world war, people in factories needed to work long hours and needed breaks … through refreshments. The vending machine business started growing within plants and factories and started to prepare prepackaged food as well as incorporate refrigeration for bottled soft drinks.
From here, the vending machine popularity exploded into other locations, and the rest is history.
Today, vending machines sell all sorts of things, including blue jeans, electronics (mostly in Japan), and even marijuana, through machines operated by a medical dispensary here in Tulsa and other cities. These machines also operate through fingerprint scanners and ID scanners to provide important verification measures.
Over time, technology has allowed vending machines to function better and smarter, being able to recognize different bills and coins through sensors, optical scanning, and miniature cameras. Safety measures are also more prominent for makers of these machines to verify real currencies as well.
Vending machines have also become smarter and can now connect to the internet, helping transmit data to owners by notifying them what items need to be replenished and what has been sold. In addition to internet access, some machines now have motion recognition abilities that can identify signals from people in purchasing items.
Some users can even purchase items by sending a message through their cellphones!
The vending machines business has come far from its inception in early times all the way to the present day. It would be interesting to see how technology continues to evolve in providing users with easy access to convenient vending machine options and items.