Check out this slideshow to see the world's 24 oddest vending machines.
24) A Hug for a Coke, Singapore
At the National University of Singapore, all students need to do for a coke is give the machine a nice hug. "The Coca-Cola Hug Machine is a simple idea to spread some happiness," a Coke representative said.
Image Credit: YouTube/pmerlion
23) Bossy Coffee, London
What would you do for a free coffee? In London, the Kenco Millicano machine commands you to dance, yell, or even hug the machine before you can get your coffee fix. If you need your caffeine, though, making a fool of yourself is a small price to pay.
Image Credit: YouTube/Kenco
22) Pepsi Interactive, United States
Social media, social gaming… social vending? That’s exactly what Pepsi is banking on with their new interactive vending machine, which lets customers play video games, gift Pepsi products by entering in an email address, and even charge their phone. It does sound a little strange, though, to have to wait for the kid in front of you to finish playing a video game before you can buy your soda.
Image Credit: PepsiCo
21) Booze, Atlanta
Coke Freestyle machines, which let you customize your beverage concoctions with your choice of any combination of the brand’s soft drinks, took it one step further at one Atlanta restaurant, Taco Mac. While dispensing your Coke, guests could mix it with Jack Daniels, or tequila, rum, or vodka, if they preferred. No word as to whether they had a guard posted to keep the college kids away.
Image Credit: Coca-Cola
20) Baby Food and Formula, United States
Busy moms on the go can have access to baby food and formula from some vending machines. The WeGoBabies machine also dispenses baby essentials like pacifiers and diapers.
Image Credit: WeGoBabies
19) Bananas, Japan
Bananas are actually a rather popular vending machine item in Japan (possibly because they’re one fruit that doesn’t bruise when dropped). But with the recent push to make vending machine snacks healthier here in the U.S., maybe this oddity isn’t such a strange idea.
Image Credit: flickr/Jrim
18) Kosher Food, Boston
Orthodox Jewish baseball fans used to be left out of stadium grub, until Boston start-up Hot Nosh installed kosher vending machines in Fenway Park. Hot Nosh stocks their machines with kosher mozzarella sticks, baked ziti, and more, and has vending machines throughout Boston.
Image Credit: flickr/Scott Beale
17) Raw Milk, Europe
In the U.S., raw milk is a controversial food item, and consumers of the unpasteurized dairy go as far to join illegal buying clubs to procure it. Not so in Europe, where not only is the milk legal, it can be found in vending machines from France to Poland.
Image Credit: flickr/ Martin Deutch
16) Sausage, Germany
Germans love their sausage, a stereotype that was only exacerbated by the arrival there of an actual sausage vending machine. It was set up outside of a butcher shop to fulfill late-night sausage cravings after the shop closes.
Image Credit: flickr/m-gem
15) A Hot Meal, United States
A piping-hot meal isn’t just a sci-fi vision of vending machine dining anymore. New technology has developed vending machines that produce hot burgers, noodles, and more.
Image Credit: flickr/Josh Bousel
14) Eggs, Japan and Romaina
Egg vending machines are popular in Japan, and have also been established in Romania. And in Frankfurt, Germany, what appeared to be an egg vending machine (complete with live chickens) popped up in the city center, but turned out to be just a campaign to raise awareness of unethical chicken-farming practices.
Image Credit: flickr/HiroshimaGab
13) Rice, Japan
In Japan, vending machines dispense everything from cigarettes to umbrellas, so it’s no surprise then that there are even vending machines that sell rice, a staple of Japanese cuisine.
Image Credit: flickr/ Nemo's Great Uncle
12) Baguettes, France
Paris has no shortage of boulangeries churning out freshly baked loaves of bread, but that didn’t stop one entrepreneur from creating a baguette vending machine. The invention hasn’t quite taken off, though, proving that there’s still something to be said for the baker’s touch.
Image Credit: flickr/marg.ret
11) French Fries, worldwide
If vending machine cuisine is any indication, French fries are universally beloved. From Montreal to Australia, you can find French fries in vending machines around the world.
Image Credit: flickr/colros, flickr/PDXdj
10) Caviar, Moscow, Los Angeles
If that bag of chips just isn’t up to your culinary standards, you can find caviar in vending machines in both Los Angeles and Moscow. You might, however, need a little more than pocket change to fulfill this craving.
Image Credit: Facebook/Gourmetfood
9) Fresh Cupcakes, Los Angeles
The cupcake craze isn’t disappearing anytime soon, at least not if the Los Angeles bakery Sprinkles has anything to do with it. The Beverly Hills bakery’s "cupcake ATM" provides freshly baked cupcakes around the clock for sugar addicts.
8) Pizza, United States
We have frozen pizza and pizza delivery, but now we can get pizza from a vending machine, too. Thanks to an Italian entrepreneur, hungry people on the go can now get a piping-hot pizza in less than three minutes.
Berdoll Pecan Farm in Cedar Creek, Texas, bakes fresh pecan pies daily, but their pies are so good that they’ve taken some forward-thinking steps to keep up with demand. To meet the 24/7 cravings of their customers, the company has a pecan pie vending machine on the porch of the shop that operates around the clock.
Image Credit: flickr/spotzilla
6) Mashed Potatoes, Singapore
The mashed potato vending machines installed in 7-Elevens in Singapore give a new meaning to "instant mashed potatoes." With the push of a button, the machine dispenses a hot cup of mash (the gravy is optional).
Image Credit: flickr/codepo8
5) The Rugbeer Machine, Argentina
Vending machines are supposed to be convenient, right? Not so in Argentina, where rugby fans must first tackle the machine for it to dispense a beer. The Rugbeer machine was installed in the Salta province of Argentina, where both rugby and beer are beloved.
Image Credit: YouTube/ InteractWorkers
4) Raw Meat, Alabama
Not everyone has access to a neighborhood butcher. Luckily for some Alabama residents, the "Smart Butcher" vending machine sells raw steaks and chops for an affordable price. Hopefully it’s replenished frequently!
Image Credit: flickr/moonlightbulb
3) Live Lobsters, United States
Sometimes food just tastes better when you catch it yourself — at least that’s the premise of live lobster vending machines that allowed users to catch their dinner before eating it. The game took off in Florida but ironically didn’t meet the same success in New England.
Taking the idea of urban agriculture to a new level, vending machines in Japan use light bulbs and "nutri-culture" beds to actually grow lettuce inside the machines. A crazy idea, or a local food revolution? Either way, it’s our pick for the oddest vending machine in the world.
Image Credit: TechOn
BACK TO SLIDE
For most of us, a vending machine is a quick and convenient dispenser of chips, candy, and soda, a welcome source of familiar packaged snacks or beverages in schools, offices, and waiting rooms. Think again! These days, vending machines worldwide are challenging our preconceived notions of what can or cannot be dispensed at the drop of a coin. In Japan, which has the highest number of vending machines per capita in the world, everything from rice to eggs is sold from automatic machines. Sometimes a machine dispenses cultural essentials, like baguettes in France or sausage in Germany. Other times, vending machines are created to meet a specific need, like the machines that distribute baby food or kosher meals in the U.S.
So whatever happened to the straightforward offering of bagged chips and coke? According to the Wall Street Journal, strange vending concepts are developed because the vending machine as a cultural icon has faded in relevance, so selling out-there items like live bait and prescription drugs helps to boost revenue for the industry. That may be true, and a machine that needs to be physically tackled before dispensing beer certainly could be interpreted as a publicity stunt, but more often than not unusual vending machine items have to be understood from a cultural standpoint. A raw milk machine is scarcely considered odd in Europe, where attitudes about milk pasteurization are different from ours in the U.S. The live crab machines in China might be interpreted as animal cruelty to some, but then again, there have been vending machines selling live lobsters in Maine.
If one thing is for certain, it's that vending machines will continue to evolve. Just as the automat in the first half of the 20th century responded to a new urban demand for a fast and cheap lunch, today vending machines are adapting to meet 21st-century needs. For example, as we become conscious of the childhood obesity epidemic, there is a push to make vending machines healthier in schools. Maybe then the vending machine that grows its own lettuce isn't such a wild concept, but rather an innovative step toward making fresh, local food more accessible. Vending machine technology is even developing to the point that we can order a hot meal at the push of a button. There's no telling what the future of vending machine fare will look like, but we wouldn't be surprised if today's popular snacks are soon considered to be old-fashioned.
To compile our rankings, we decided that while the most important feature of a vending machine was what's actually dispensed, the method of delivery was also pretty important. The top vending machines, however, all have one thing in common: the product they dispense is alive.
So read on to learn about the craziest vending machines in the world. And who knows, maybe some of these will take off and we'll all soon be getting our mashed potato fix from the nearest 7-Eleven, Slurpee-style.
Want see the world's 24 oddest vending machines, Check out the slideshow above!