12 Vending Machines Dispensing Unique Foods Around The World

Vending machines have been with us since ancient times. According to Logic Vending, the first vending machine, at least that we know of, was put in place at a first-century temple and was made to dispense a set amount of holy water after a coin had been inserted. The first modern vending machine, which dispensed postcards, was invented in the U.K. in the 1880s. Vending machines have continued to be modified to fit more and more of our needs ever since.

If you have only seen vending machines that carry drinks and snacks, then you have only witnessed the tip of the iceberg. As developments in modern technology march on, vending machines have also evolved. They can now keep items warm or refrigerated, for instance, expanding stock far beyond holy water and cards. The number of moving parts have increased too. Some ingenious vending machines use robotic arms to retrieve your item for you rather than relying on gravity to do the work.

With modern tech, vending machine possibilities are practically endless, even within the world of food. Innovators across the globe have created vending machines to meet our growing demands and reach new markets and customers. Read on to learn more about some of the most unique food vending machines from around the world.

1. Farm fresh produce in Germany

A lot of vending machines in the U.S. stock sugary drinks and low-nutrition snacks like potato chips and candy. What if you could instead get produce that's fresh from the farm? According to Fast Company, while it may seem odd to Americans, this is indeed an option in Germany.

The German farm Peter-und-Paul-Hof tapped vending machine company Stuewer to sell its produce to a wider audience. The farmers found that delivering products to customers was too bothersome, while customers held a similar opinion about driving all the way out to the farms. Offering fresh produce in vending machines means that farmers can concentrate on the work of growing crops rather than running a stand or carting the fruits of their labor to markets. Such vending machines can also be set up just about anywhere with power, making fresh ingredients more accessible to people who don't have direct access to the farms themselves. 

A Redditor whose sister lives in Germany said that in front of one nearby farm's store is a sizeable vending machine that is "filled with eggs, with bags of apples, salad, tomatoes, potatoes (whatever is in season), with their homemade jams and honey... It's pretty awesome!"

2. Live hairy crabs in China

Fall in China signals one thing: it's hairy crab season. As The World reports, people all over China go wild for this sweet little crustacean. Those who can't buy them fresh from the farms (yes, these crabs are typically farmed) have them shipped live through the mail. Where else are the crabs available? You guessed it: in vending machines. And yes, in the interest of freshness, the many-legged crustaceans really are alive in there.

The Atlantic reported that a crab shop owner known as Mr. Liu acquired the vending machine in question for his business. With it, he could continue to sell the crabs after the shop had closed. The machine maintains an internal temperature of between 41 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit, which keeps the crabs in a dormant state. China Daily said that a similar crab vending machine that popped up in downtown Shanghai held 100 crabs and was so popular that it needed to be restocked at least every 48 hours.

It isn't only freshness that concerns customers, however. Crabs from Yangcheng Lake are considered superior to those from other regions, so people want authentic as well as live crabs. The vending machines can help picky customers get just the right crustaceans.

3. A whole pecan pie in Texas

According to Natchitoches Pecans LLC, the first time a recipe for pecan pie appeared in a cookbook was in Texas in the 1870s. It makes sense that the treat is a favorite in the Lone Star state, as pecans are native to the region. So, what better place is there to set up a pecan pie vending machine than in Texas?

The pie-dispensing machine was placed outside the Berdoll Pecan Candy and Gift Shop in Cedar Creek, just south of Austin, Texas. It made its debut in 2008, all so that the popular spot could still sell its treats when the store was closed. While other items are available for purchase from inside the machine, the whole pecan pies it produces are the most popular and are bought at all hours of the day and night. Atlas Obscura said that this vending machine is thought to be the only one of this type in the world.

If you're in Cedar Creek, the vending machine as well as the gift shop are easy to spot. Just look for the giant squirrel statue holding a pecan. Her name is Ms. Pearl.

4. Cake in a can in Japan

Have you ever wished you could scoop a portion of sweet, decadent cake straight out of a pop can? That possibility is very real in Japan! Okashi Gaku is a line of colorful layered cakes that are sold via vending machines in certain major cities across Japan. The company has also recently expanded to Singapore. The container is opened by pulling the tab just as you would on a beverage can. You then scoop the cake out with a spoon.

Sora News 24 reported that several different flavors were available in Japan, including classic favorites like strawberry shortcake. The container is clear, revealing the layers of strawberries, cream, and sponge cake within, as shown in this video a fan made on YouTube.

Before the vending machines were released, the cans of cake were sold at Parfaiteria Bel, a Japanese dessert parlor. The parent company of both is Gaku, which was founded in Hokkaido in 2006 (per Renaissance Partners Group). Perhaps it's not too surprising that cake in a can originated on the island of Hokkaido, a region known both for its beer, canned or otherwise.

5. Warm baguettes in France

In France, bread is a big deal. Consider that, in 2022, the French baguette was added to UNESCO's list of Intangible Cultural Heritage (via CNN). Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO's director general, said, "This will make people realize that this regular baguette that they know very well, is something precious ... [and] to be proud of it."

It may seem a bit sacrilegious, then, to dispense baguettes from something as mundane as a vending machine. Yet such machines operate all over France. As with other vending machines on this list, it's about accessibility. Some communities are so small that they don't have a local bakery from which to buy freshly made baguettes. Instead, their only source outside of making the bread from scratch is the vending machines (per La Nouvelle République).

YouTube channel Oui In France explained that there are 24-hour drive-thru vending machines outside certain supermarkets, making fresh baguettes available long after the bakery workers have gone home. The machine displays how many baguettes remain as well as the temperature of the internal oven, so you know you are getting a perfectly warmed baguette.

6. Milk (almost) straight from the cow in Ontario, Canada

Raw milk vending machines are not an unusual sight in much of Europe, according to Food Safety News. However, there are risks to consuming raw milk, and not every country is on the same page when it comes to how this product should be distributed. In the U.S., the CDC warns that unpasteurized milk may contain an array of disease-causing microorganisms such as e. coli and salmonella. In the U.S., rules regulating raw milk vary by state. Meanwhile, in Canada, it is simply banned outright

This hasn't stopped Golspie Dairy, located in Ontario's dairy capital of Oxford County, from taking advantage of the opportunity to offer milk via vending machine.  In keeping with the rules of Ontario's Milk Act, not only is the milk pasteurized, but it comes almost straight from the cow. Operations manager and co-owner Marja DeBoer-Marshall told The London Free Press that "The local community and tourists can just come to our farm and fill up a bottle of milk that was produced that morning or the day before." Customers can choose white whole milk or chocolate milk.

7. Champagne in the U.S.

Vending machines may not have a highbrow reputation, but that did not deter Moët & Chandon from creating its own Champagne vending machine. Pursuitist reported that one such machine was installed at the elegant Boca Raton Resort and Club in Florida. Town & Country discovered another at The Stayton Room, a bar in midtown Manhattan that is attached to the Lexington Hotel. Grabbing a bottle is not as simple as dropping in a few bills or swiping a card through a reader, however. Customers must first purchase a special gold coin that they then use at the vending machine. Two varieties of the brand's Champagne are available: Imperial Brut and Imperial Rosé, which each come in 200-milliliter bottles that are accompanied by small Champagne flutes.

These Champagne vending machines are not restricted to hotels and resorts, either. Newsweek reported that Kathy Hilton, mother of socialite Paris Hilton, owns her very own Moët & Chandon vending machine. Assuming you can afford the hefty price tag (and if it ever comes back in stock), a similar vending machine is available for purchase at Neiman Marcus.

8. Toasted sandwiches in Singapore

Is there anything more disappointing than a soggy sandwich? Maybe that's why vending machine sandwiches have a pretty poor reputation, at least in the U.S. Singapore's Hotbake 24/7 solves this problem by offering freshly toasted sandwiches from its vending machines. The machines are restocked daily to ensure freshness.

The sandwiches are assembled at a facility with a bevy of food certifications, including HACCP, SFA Grade A, and halal checkmarks. The vending machines also carry a Healthier Choice symbol that is awarded by the Singapore Health Promotion Board after a set of strict nutritional guidelines have been met. The wrapped sandwiches are transported via cold truck to the machines and kept refrigerated until someone punches in their order. Once selected, the sandwich is toasted by two hotplates through its wrapping. It then drops down into a compartment to be retrieved by the customer. The whole process takes less than two minutes.

Each machine dispenses two different varieties of sandwiches. According to YouTube, not every machine carries the same varieties. So if you don't like your first set of options, look around for another machine and maybe you will find those will be better. Naturally, the toasted sandwich is best consumed soon after it has been toasted.

9. Hot pizza in Italy

If you thought the French were picky about their baguettes, try Italians and their pizza. In 2014, the Los Angeles Times reported on a revolutionary vending machine called Let's Pizza that not only dispensed hot pizza but made it almost entirely from scratch, starting with kneading the dough. If that's all rather hard to believe, you can actually watch the process through a window in the machine.

Seven years later, Reuters wrote about a new pizza vending machine called Mr. Go Pizza hitting the streets of Rome. Reactions were mixed, to say the least. "It's OK but it's not pizza," said Fabrizia Pugliese, a native of Naples, the city where pizza was invented (via History Today). "It looks good but it is much smaller than in a restaurant and there is less topping," said another skeptical customer, Claudio Zampiga.

Deutsche Welle reported in 2022 that pizza vending machines were still being accused of undermining the art of making pizza. But it's hard to keep a vending machine down, it seems. The company behind Mr. Go Pizza is more optimistic about its future, and Let's Pizza released its second-generation vending machine in 2022 with plans to release its third generation in 2025.

10. Ponzu sauce in Japan

It isn't unusual to find a vending machine that dispenses only one brand of something, like a Coca-Cola or Pepsi-branded contraption. But what about a machine that stocks just one kind of sauce? Apparently, that's something you'll currently find only in Japan.

This particular vending machine, which dispenses only ponzu sauce, can be found in Tsuruhashi, also known as Korea Town (per Inside Osaka), a neighborhood in Osaka, Japan. According to Tastylicious, ponzu is a fruity and acidic sauce that can be used in marinades and glazes, much like soy sauce. SoraNews 24 reported that the ponzu stocked in this refrigerated vending machine was made by Kou Heiretsu, a chef who once owned and operated a restaurant in Tsuruhashi. After the restaurant closed, Heiretsu turned to perfecting his ponzu sauce, then bottling and selling it online. He eventually also began to distribute his sauce through four vending machines located throughout Tsuruhashi.

The original sauce is available in different sizes, plus there are bottles of Kimchi Ponzu and Golden Ponzu. If you ever visit Tsuruhashi in Osaka, a bottle from this ponzu vending machine would certainly make for an interesting souvenir or addition to your next meal.

11. Grilled burgers in New Jersey

Imagine biting into a freshly grilled burger whenever you want, with the hassle of grilling one up or making your way to a restaurant merely optional. You can do just that in certain places in New Jersey with the newly launched RoboBurger vending machine. RoboBurger's CEO, Audley Wilson, is the machine's inventor.

The process is explained by RoboBurger on YouTube. Customers can choose simple condiments like aged Wisconsin cheddar cheese, ketchup, and mustard (per Today). The machine grills the 100% beef patty, toasts the bun, then assembles the burger before placing it in a foldable takeout box. While it cooks, the grilling meat aroma is purposefully released from the machine to grab the attention of passers-by. The finished burger drops down to a bay for the customer to retrieve alongside napkins. The entire process takes between four and six minutes. What's more, the machine cleans itself between each use.

RoboBurger hopes to put its vending machines at college campuses, hospital waiting rooms, airports, and anywhere someone might want access to a freshly prepared burger at any time of day.

12. Entire meals in Singapore

Meal kits are a growing market in today's increasingly busy world, especially in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic that disrupted both restaurant operations and grocery shopping, as The Guild of Fine Food reports. But what do you do if that grocery store is closed or your meal delivery box was delayed? In Singapore, you could turn to Chef-in-Box, a company that stocks hot food vending machines with ready-made, whole meals.

Since 2016, Chef-in-Box has operated what it has deemed VendCafes. There is currently a collection of seven vending machines, each with a different cuisine on offer, such as Thai, Indian, and Spanish. They're located all across Singapore, as per SG Magazine. Individual Chef-in-Box vending machines can be found in heavily-trafficked locations such as hospitals, office buildings, the airport, and more.

While other vending machines may dispense candy and soda, this is definitely not junk food. The meals have no added colorings, flavorings, or preservatives, and are designed by chefs and nutritionists. The food is also halal certified, which is especially important in a country with a growing Muslim population, as per the Singapore Department of Statistics. With such a variety of cuisines on offer, we can only imagine that it would be difficult to become bored with Chef-in-Box.