We don’t normally consider food from a vending machine to be healthy.
Think vending machine food, and it’s more of an emergency-cereal-bar thing, or a hungover-Cheetos situation.
But a company called Fresh Bowl has been changing that perception.
They sell salads from vending machines — in glass jars that are returnable. So it’s healthy, and better for the environment.
They launched last year in New York City, and primarily aimed their offering at commuters, in an attempt to cut down on food packaging waste.
Right now there are five kiosks in the city, but Fresh Bowl are planning to have 50 vending machines by the end of 2020. They’re currently situated in subway centres and office building lobbies - and the plan is to also place the vending machines in retail locations.
As well as salads, you can also buy breakfast oats and grain bowls in reusable glass jars. Return the jars and you’ll get a discount off the next meal. Overall, there’s been an 85% return rate of the jars, so it’s a model that seems to be working.
Cofounder Zach Lawless told Fast Company: “[That] really speaks to the fact that people like the ability to drop it off and forget about it, and have a credit for whenever they want to use it. A lot of sustainability systems . . . ask you to bring your own cup, which requires planning ahead, and then other ones ask for a big deposit where you have to return it. I think the way we’re doing it really speaks to the consumer, which is leading to the higher return rate, and a lot of that has actually been a learning experience for us.”
Initially, Fresh Bowl had required a $2 deposit. But customers didn’t like that their salad price went from $7 to $9 as a result. The company changed their approach to the discount model, and saw an increase in their returns.
As Fast Company observed, “there’s still not a clear understanding of what works best to motivate customer behavior: a penalty, by either charging more for disposables or charging a deposit to get a reusable back, or a reward, in the form of a discount?”
Would you prefer to return the jar for a penalty deposit OR a reward discount?