Vending machines for all sorts of things are big in Japan, and the craze seems to be coming to Singapore too.
And they’re not just selling stuff like canned drinks or cup noodles.
With a reduced cost of labour, capital, and manpower needed to maintain a vending machine (as compared to a retail store run by staff), we may soon witness vending machines popping up around every corner of our little red dot.
Who knows? But for a start, leading supermarket chain Giant has taken that first step in making this a reality with its concept shopping area called VendMart.
What it is essentially, is Singapore’s largest collection of 17 vending machines, all under one roof.
Located at the entrance of Giant Hypermarket Tampines, it was officially opened to the public on Wednesday(Oct 11).
Five machines are also available at Giant’s IMM outlet in Jurong East.
Giant’s marketing director Ms Lim Wee Ling told Business Insider: “We wanted to provide our shoppers with a unique shopping experience”.
She added that it was also an avenue for Giant to support local businesses and refresh their current shopping concept without having to invest much of their own manpower.
A win-win situation.
VendMart is under trial for three months, with a possibility of an extension if the concept performs well.
So we decided to get in on the hype, and checked it out.
Once we walked through the doors of Giant Hypermarket Tampines, we were greeted by the row of 17 vending machines.
Giant’s Mystery Box is the first machine in the row, and is filled with supermarket vouchers, kitchen gadgets and household appliances.
It costs $10 a go, but you won’t know what you’re getting till it comes out.
It’s a great option for risk-takers, but personally, I’d like to know what my $10 is getting me ahead of time.
We were told that one of the vouchers in the machine is for an iPhone 8.
$10 for an iPhone 8? In fact, most of the items you can get via the lucky draw concept are valued at more than $10.
And don’t worry, we saw them putting the iPhone voucher into the machine – so it’s definitely in there.
There are also a variety of food options from other vending machines – from pizza to chili crab pasta.
The pizza vendors – Shiok! Pizza – had an impressive machine design, that allowed two pizzas to be heated up and delivered within four minutes. Try beating that at a regular shop.
Shiok! Pizza’s advisor Mr Michael Yeo (above) said that their vending machine was designed by the company’s own team.
He hopes to sell the machine to other pizza companies so that consumers have access to piping hot pizza even at odd hours of the night, after the establishments are closed.
Business Insider ordered a pizza, and it did come out piping hot. And it was delicious too.
It was a little pricey at $16 for a pizza but it was as good as ordering it fresh from a restaurant or cafe.
Yes, we were surprised too.
If you’re just looking for a quick bite, there are also a couple of healthy snack options. And BoxGreen’s one of them.
The machine features a range of vegan and gluten-free options, for as low as 120 calories.
We gave the mocha almonds a try – and they didn’t disappoint.
At $2.90, it was definitely an affordable healthy snack option.
But if you’re feeling like a more localised snack, there’s also a machine to satisfy your ‘popiah’ cravings.
The halal certified machine serves ready-to-eat popiah starting at $2.
But it does go up to $3.50 if you go if you choose the chicken option.
If you need to wash down all of that food with a drink, there are both herbal and juice options from various other vending machines.
The fresh orange juice machine stood out for being pretty high-tech.
While it isn’t the only machine that accepts online payment options like Apple Pay and Flash Pay, the vendors can control it remotely.
So if the machine does malfunction, the problem can be solved remotely, and their consumers can still leave happily with a drink in hand.
There are also vending machines selling items like hijabs, fish food, gardening supplies and even men’s hair grooming products.
Gone are the days where we have to go to a wet market to buy bait for fishing, or head to the hairdresser to buy a tub of pomade.
Pomade prices start at $12, with a range of them to choose from – if pomade is your thing, that is.
Overall, the variety of machines available was pretty impressive although it may not be worth a trip if you’re not already in the area.
But if browsing through shelves and aisles of stores and making small talk with retail staff ain’t your thing, then maybe vending machines could a good option for you.