11 of the coolest vending machines around the world

Flickr/eastmidtownpartnershipSprinkles cupcakes has a vending machine attached to some of their stores.
  • Vending machines around the world sell much more than snacks and soft drinks.
  • The Art-o-Mat is a vending machine invented in North Carolina that dispenses miniature masterpieces.
  • In China, there are vending machines that sell live crabs.

When you think of vending machines, you probably picture snacks and soft drinks. But there are incredible machines around the world that sell items as eclectic as bars of gold, umbrellas, and live crabs.

Here are 11 cool vending machines you’ll find around the world in places from the United Arab Emirates to Australia.

You’ll find a vending machine that dispenses gold in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Banku (CC BY-SA 3.0)/Wikimedia CommonsThe machine offers gold coins from Canada.

Developed by German firm Ex Oriente Lux, the Gold To Go vending machine raises the 24-karat bar. This opulent gizmo, which debuted in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, at the Emirates Palace Hotel, dispenses bullion in one-, five-, and 10-gram increments. The souped-up ATM also sells gold coins from Australia, Canada, and South Africa.

A similar machine was also installed at a mall in Florida.

There are French fry vending machines in countries from the Netherlands to Australia.

Sandra Cohen-Rose and Colin Rose from Montreal, Canada (CC BY-SA 2.0)/Wikimedia CommonsThere are a lot of variations of the French fry vending machine.

French fry lovers, rejoice – around the world, there are vending machines that spit out hot, crisp fries. A Chinese company called Beyondte Technology Co., Limited, released its devices in 2013, distributing them to countries such as Belgium and Chile. In 2015, an Australian company called Hot Chips launched its machines, as did Dutch startupCaenator.

An Arizona tech startup invented a used car vending machine.

Carvana, an Arizona-based tech startup, sells used cars online and through vending machines that stand as tall as office buildings. The machines have primarily been installed in the southern United States but Carvana has recently expanded to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Washington DC.

Baguette vending machines in France make it easy to get that bread 24/7.

Thanks to a baker named Jean-Louis Hecht, the wand-shaped loaves received the vending machine treatment. Hecht’s invention, a 24-hour baguette dispenser that’s fed partially cooked dough and completes the baking process to yield fresh, crispy bread, debuted in 2011 during France’s August holiday period, a time when many boulangeries close.

In the Netherlands, fast food vending machines are common.

Alix Guillard (CC BY-SA 3.0 ), via Wikimedia CommonsThere are entire restaurants of the vending machines.

When traditional fast food isn’t speedy enough, there’s FEBO, a Dutch company that operates vending machine restaurants. The eateries serve hamburgers, croquettes, and deep-fried sausages called frikandellen from automated machines. Despite being self-serve, all items are made fresh in-house.

Pizza vending machines are an Italian innovation.

Courtesy of Let’s PizzaYou can customise it, too.

If you want pizza pronto, Let’s Pizza is the vending machine of your cheesy dreams. It was invented by Claudio Torghele, a former pasta company exec who was intrigued by the vending machines he saw at US food courts.

“When people eat the pizza, they say it’s better than expected,” Torghele told Fast Company. “I’m Italian, and of course there are many pizzerias that make good pizza. But I can say this is a good pizza.”

Capable of crafting dough in 40 seconds, Let’s Pizza makes it easy to satisfy your craving for a pie.

Sprinkles, a California-based bakery, operates cupcake ATMs.

Invented by Sprinkles, a bakery based in Beverly Hills, California, these quirky ATMs resemble the machines at your bank but provide baked goods instead of cash.

“When we created the first cupcake-only bakery in 2005, we thought, ‘Why can’t the cupcake be the star of the show?’,” Sprinkles co-founder Charles Nelson told Fortune. “What we saw is that we had customers who were demanding cupcakes 24 hours a day, but it doesn’t make sense to have your business open at three or four in the morning … fast-forward to the cupcake ATM.”

There are ATMs in cities such as Scottsdale, Arizona, Austin, Texas, and Chicago, Illinois.

China has vending machines that sell live crabs.

For fresh seafood on the go, China boasts vending machines that dispense live crabs. The temperature-controlled machines, which are located on streets and in subway stations, keep the crustaceans in a dormant state until people buy them. Special packaging designed to mimic a cave also helps preserve the crabs.

Each one costs the equivalent of about $US3 and is accompanied by vinegar and ginger tea.

You’ll find raw milk vending machines in European countries like Switzerland and Slovenia.

Flickr/Bryce EdwardsThey’re typically called MLEKOmats.

Raw, or unpasteurized, milk is more common in Europe than in North America, where regulations and bans make it difficult to sell. If you’re in search of dairy straight from the cow, you’ll find raw milk vending machines in countries such as France, Switzerland, and Slovenia.

However, even where raw milk is readily available, customers still need to keep in mind that it can carry pathogens, as an Italian study from 2012 found.

Japanese vending machines sell everything from soft drinks to umbrellas.

cogdogblog/CC BY 2.0/ Wikimedia CommonsYou can even choose which colour you want.

Japan’s proclivity for vending machines has been well-documented. In fact, it’s estimated that there’s one vending machine for every 23 people. Considering the country has a population of more than 126 million, that’s a ton of machines. While some sell typical vending machine fare like candy and soft drinks, others offer canned ramen, sake and beer, and even pantyhose and umbrellas.

Art vending machines sell miniature masterpieces around the US and overseas.

Keith Irwin/CC 2.0/Wikimedia CommonsIt’s made from what used to be a cigarette vending machine.

Miniature masterpieces are the focus of the Art-o-Mat, a vending machine invented by American artist Clark Whittington. A native of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where cigarette machines are ubiquitous, Whittington was inspired to transform old cigarette dispensers into devices that distribute original artwork (think tiny paintings and pint-sized figurines).

Today, there are Art-o-Mats in the US and Canada and overseas in Austria and Australia.


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