Frozen Food Vending Machines Perk Up Shrinking Japanese Market
Vending machines selling a variety of frozen meals, including ramen noodles, seafood bowls, broiled eel, and cakes, have recently been on the rise across Japan, amid a shrinking market for the country's signature automated vendors, Toshiki Inoue reported for Mainichi Shimbun.
Photo Insert: Dohiemon machines accommodate products of varying sizes, based on combinations of partitions built inside, and are capable of selling a wide range of products, including small sweets and large bento lunch boxes.
Behind this craze is the "Dohiemon" frozen food vending machine, whose total shipments reached 3,000 within around one year since its release in January 2021.
While Japan is known to have many vending machines, those selling beverages account for over 50% of all vending machines and have been set up in every possible corner. Besides competition with convenience stores and others, the industry also struggles with a shortage of staffers who can refill products.
Statistics of the Japan Vending System Manufacturers Association show that the number of vending machines, including those selling cigarettes, food, and tickets, has dropped from around 5.6 million in 2000 to about 4 million in 2021.
A string of makers has left the business since the 2000s, and only Sanden Retail Systems Corp. and Fuji Electric Co., both based in Tokyo, are currently manufacturing vending machines to sell drinks and food in Japan.
Against such a backdrop, Sanden, which also handles glass cases for convenience stores, focused its attention on the new field of frozen meals for vending machines.
In January 2021, it began selling Dohiemon, which was set up before restaurants and other pandemic-hit establishments were forced to close their doors or reduce open hours. Sales of the freezer vending machines soon took off.
Dohiemon machines accommodate products of varying sizes, based on combinations of partitions built inside, and are capable of selling a wide range of products, including small sweets and large bento lunch boxes.
The machines' structure also makes it easier to refill products, unlike vending machines selling beverages.