The number of installations within the global vending machines market has been forecast to exceed 25 million units by 2018, driven by the demand for healthy vended foods, functional convenience foods, advances in technology such as cashless payment systems, decreasing equipment costs, and manufacturer's focus on extending product availability.
Consumers' need for convenient food and drink products in workplaces and schools will sustain this $7 billion industry. However, industry revenue will lag behind the expected 3.3% annual GDP growth because disposable incomes will increase more slowly than GDP.
A vending machine is a machine which dispenses items such as snacks, beverages, alcohol, cigarettes, lottery tickets, cologne, consumer products and even gold and gems to customers automatically, after the customer inserts currency or credit into the machine.
The first reference to a vending machine is in the work of Hero of Alexandria, a first-century engineer and mathematician. His machine accepted a coin and then dispensed holy water. 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. The pan continued to tilt with the weight of the coin until it fell off, at which point a counterweight snapped the lever up and turned off the valve.
Technology advancements have made retailing services through vending machines more cutting edge offering compelling benefits to modern time-pressed consumers. From a crude mechanical device, vending machines have developed phenomenally over the years into a sophisticated, touch-screen operated ubiquitous machine delivering anything from live crabs and drinks to music.
With the fight against obesity and sugary sodas taking a conscious route among all layers of the society, the latest trend in the vending machines is the emergence of healthy vending machines. The market is witnessing an increasing installation of such machines to meet consumers' growing demand for healthy foods including functional foods and organic products.
In 2012 the top four operators were estimated to earn around a quarter of industry revenue, with major players including Compass Group and Aramark Corporation. The vending machine operators industry is highly competitive, as the industry is made up of several medium-sized companies, thousands of small businesses, and tens-of-thousands of partnerships and sole operators.
The blending together of security and convenience will mean the vending machine becomes an integral component of our 24-hour, instant-access lifestyles in the future. As mobile-phone technology improves, and payment systems move towards "wave pay" (as with London's Oyster card), vending points in public and workplaces will be used both as places to buy goods directly, but also as delivery points for online shopping - a cross between a left-luggage locker and a conventional vending machine.
For more information on the vending machine market, see the latest research: Vending Machine Market
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