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Focus on Touch Vending

22 August 2016

I’m sure everyone reading this will have used a vending machine at some point in their lives, whether it’s a naughty sweet treat or refreshing drink on a hot day, vending machines are all around us and the trend for instant purchases from unattended machines day and night is growing.

In this insight we’re going to take a closer look at the humble vending machine,   from its origins, right the way through to todays most sophisticated touch enabled devices.

The History of vending

Product Vending has a very long history, possibly much longer than you might think.

  • The first recorded example of a vending machine comes from the Greek mathematician Hero of Alexandria who invented a device that dispensed holy water inside Egyptian temples, when the coin was deposited, it fell upon a pan attached to a lever. The lever opened a valve which let some water flow out.
  • Other early examples include small machines made of brass that dispensed tobacco found in some taverns in England around 1615.
  • In 1822, an English publisher and bookshop owner named Richard Carlile built a newspaper dispensing machine that allowed patrons to purchase banned works.
  • In 1867 Simeon Denham was awarded British Patent no. 706 for the first fully automatic vending machine, which dispensed stamps,
  • In 1888, the Thomas Adams Gum Company introduced the very first vending machines to the United States. The machines were installed on the elevated subway platforms in New York City and sold Tutti-Fruiti gum.
  • In 1897, the Pulver Manufacturing Company added animated figures to its gum machines as an added attraction.
  • In 1907 the popular round candy coated gumball and gumball vending machines were introduced.
  • The first bottled drink dispensers were developed in the 1930s and the only choices available in vending machines were Classic Coke and Pepsi.
  • In 1965, John Greenwick invented the first vending machine that accepted paper bills


What this long history shows is that vending machines have become an accepted part of our everyday lives. And the public is now very much accustomed to the quick and easy service that is offered by vending machines.

Vending facts from around the world

  • There are approximately 3.7 million vending machines in Europe. The majority of European vending machines are hot drinks machines, with the industry in Europe employing directly more than 85,000 people
  • Japan has the highest number of vending machines per capita, with about one machine for every twenty-three people- a staggering 5.5m units!
  • Many vending machines in Hong Kong are stocked with drinks or snacks. However, some vending machines are stocked with cases and accessories for mobile phones and cameras, umbrellas, cosmetics, and so forth.
  • In 2012 South African beverage company,BOS Ice Tea installed a Twitter-activated vending machine in Cape Town
  • In 2003 the Coca-Cola Company installed disaster-relief vending machines in Japan. These systems dispense free beverages in times of national emergency.

The Future of Vending machines

20140813_124314As digital technology and hardware advances, vending machines are no longer used solely for snacks and drinks, in fact there are many weird and wonderful vending machines out there, including full meal vending, with the ability to cool or warm pre-cooked made to order meals.

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We are also beginning to see a growing trend for environmentally friendly “reverse-vending”, where products, such as glass or plastic bottles and tin cans can be deposited in return for vouchers or cash, encouraging recycling.

Vending machine design is also being affected by changes in government legislation. In some countries, such as the USA it is becoming a legal requirements for retailers to clearly display a products ingredients or nutritional information wherever it is sold. Traditional vending machines, which only display the front of a product are unable to do this, therefore machines are being retrofitted or designed with touchscreens that enable consumers to interactive with a virtual image of a snack or drink and view this information.

Furthermore, with their often prime locations in high footfall public areas, some vending machines are being designed with advertising in mind. These units have large, high definition touchscreens covering much of their front face. Attractive, animated user interfaces draw passing customers to the machine to select a drink or snack from a digital menu, and sometimes play games to win vouchers or free gifts. When not vending, these large displays can be used by advertisers to promote other goods and services, or even (as in the Japanese case above) be used to display important public information, in times of national emergency. In national disasters such as earthquakes or tsunami alerts, the networked LED and LCD screens on some vending machine can be turned over to the municipal government to display critical information to passers-by, such as the location of the nearest shelter or evacuation point, or even vend free water if mains supply is interrupted.

ZY343A_HR - JR East Water PR image

For our pick of the best Touch vending machine read our insight post, or Contact us if you would like to know more about our touchscreen technologies and how they can be used within your vending or POS systems.