Variety of frozen food vending machines prove successful in times of pandemic

Unique vending machines selling frozen foods ranging from sliced ​​fish to Swiss rolls have gained popularity in northern Japan, providing a new source of income for businesses affected by the pandemic while allowing customers to purchase products without risking to contract COVID-19.

A vending machine, installed by fish wholesaler Chibasuisan in a residential area of ​​Sapporo on the northernmost main island of Hokkaido, provides boneless slices of fish such as salmon and mackerel for 300 yen (2 , $ 70) to 1,500 yen.

“It’s nice to be able to take your time deciding what to get without having in-person interactions,” said Teruyuki Nagai, 49, who bought 500 grams of salmon from the machine in late September.

The company, which normally supplies fish for school lunches, started sales through the vending machine in August as hospitals and nurseries it supplied were temporarily closed due to the pandemic. The fish slices available in the machine have all been boned, making the products convenient for cooking.

A woman buys sliced ​​frozen fish from a vending machine in Sapporo on September 25, 2021 (Kyodo)

A variety of frozen cakes, such as Swiss rolls, can also be purchased for 500 yen from vending machines set up by the confectionery company Climb Inc. in Sapporo.

Reduced demand for its candy in hotels and for flight meals led the company to launch vending machines in April, with those sales now accounting for a quarter of the company’s total, he said.

Meanwhile, in the town of Otaru in Hokkaido, about 40 different types of frozen meat can be found in vending machines located in the factory of supplier Itoshoji, with cuts of lamb meat for barbecue dishes. most popular local specialty, the company said.

And starting in late September, a barbecue restaurant in Sapporo placed frozen food vending machines outside its store as part of a new COVID-19 strategy to get more customers to try its grilled meat selections. in the comfort of their own home or on a campsite because they avoid eating out because of the risk of infection.

According to Sanden Retail Systems Corp., which manufactures frozen food vending machines, its devices had been installed in 41 of the country’s 47 prefectures by the end of August.

“We would like (vending machines) to be used by many companies as a new method of marketing during the coronavirus pandemic,” a company employee said.

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