We see them in most office buildings, and are popular at rest stops along the interstates. Airports, train and bus stations also provide vending machines for quick, convenient snacks and beverages for busy travelers. Vending machines are a frequent sight in the modern world, offering everything from soda to electronics. They demand a large market share in the “get it now” economy. The industry earns nearly $22 billion in revenue in the United States, according to Vending Market Watch.[1] The history of vending machines is not one of recent change, it’s origins date back to the first century.

Since the first iteration of the vending machine, much has happened in technology and lifestyles have changed. These factors are currently influencing the industry, and affect the constant changes made to the machines production and delivery.

Heron Invents Vending Machine

The mathematician Heron of Alexandria invented the precursor of the vending machine to prevent theft of holy water in temple, an ingenious design. Visitors would drop a token in the dispenser, with the weight of the token pressed upon a lever, a small door opened. While this door was open, the holy water would spill out for a short time until the coin fell, and the door closed. Although Heron’s invention solved a massive problem at the time, hundreds of years would pass before a new iteration was introduced.

Vending Machines Reappear in Centuries Later

Some 1,600 years later, the same basics of Heron’s invention were used to create machines that dispensed tobacco, popular in local taverns circa 1615. In England in1822, a publisher and bookstore owner developed a machine that offered readers the chance to purchase books that were banned in a discreet manner. The first fully automated vending machine was developed in 1867 and allowed users to purchase stamps. The wide variety of goods sold in vending machines would continue to expand as coin-operated machines became the norm.

Coin Operated Vending Machines Launch

In the 1880s, Percival Everitt debuted a new type of machine that accepted coins. They offered necessities like envelopes, postcards and note paper. With the ability to now use coins to purchase items, it only made sense that the next shift in history is in the direction of food and beverage.

The Automat Era

In 1902, Horn & Hardart (a food services company in Philadelphia and New York) opened an “automat” restaurant in Philly, with more opening in NYC in 1912. These restaurants could serve up hot food, fast. As diners only needed to put in their nickels and the food would appear, a waitstaff was not necessary. It was an easy, convenient way for New Yorkers to get an affordable meal. These were the first specialty vending machines and they would continue to influence the functionality and design of future machines, well beyond their closing in 1962. 

Beverage Vending Machines from Beer to Soda

The majority of operational vending machines hold beverages like sodas, juices, energy drinks, and water. However, the first beverage vending machine sold beer, wine and liquor and was located in Paris. Beverages continued to be popular, shifting mainly to soda as the go-to in the 1920s. These initial machines dispensed a stream of soda into a cup, with canned soda vending machines arriving in 1961.

You Can Get That in a Vending Machine?

While snacks and beverages are by far the most common items sold in vending machines, there are plenty of specialty machines available. This drive toward the non-traditional was precipitated by the development of credit card readers, which provides a new convenience for shoppers.. This varied group of products includes:

  • Electronics
  • Make-up
  • Lottery tickets
  • Books
  • Over-the-counter medicines and other health supplies
  • Clothing

The history of the vending machines has taken many turns. What’s ahead is just as interesting. Machines are becoming more intelligent by sharing data and interacting with consumers. These new opportunities will be fueled by employing artificial intelligence and a connected network to continue the vending machine advancement..

Serving the popular vending machine industry since 1955, Standard Change has maintained a commitment to secure construction, accuracy, reliability, and long product life. Our customer service support is the best in the industry, with an unmatched reputation for quick service response; whether it is for a machine purchased last year or twenty years ago. As the industry changes, we are excited to see what the next addition to the market is.

To learn more, please visit:  http://www.standardchange.com/page_about.html


[1] http://www.vendingmarketwatch.com/article/12350375/2017-state-of-the-industry-operators-close-2016-with-7-year-high-of-216-billion