Vending machine coffee: Understanding its growing popularity

Antony Papandreou
October 6, 2022
vending machine coffee

Since the emergence of the third-wave, the specialty coffee industry has stepped outside of the niche where it first began.

Additionally, true to a predictable growth trajectory, the consumer market is always evolving, and expectations continue to change with it.

At one time, 100% arabica coffee was the stamp of perceived higher quality. Now, a growing number of coffee brands are more focused on emphasising “specialty grade” and giving more attention to the coffee’s origin and distinct flavour characteristics.

As consumer expectations around convenience and quality coffee change, by necessity, so must the businesses that service that sector. As a result, specialty coffee roasters have arrived at the point where they must consider roasting coffee to cater for self-service machines or vending machines.

Coffee vending machines are traditionally placed in areas where customers spend time waiting, such as service stations or hospitals. They provide consumers with a convenient caffeine fix, but often lack complexity and flavour. Therefore, this may present an opportunity for specialty roasters to break into the market and offer high quality coffee that can be used in vending machines.

Read on to find out if servicing the demand for vending machine coffee is an achievable goal for specialty coffee roasters.

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vending machine coffee

The growth of vending machine coffee

Coffee vending machines come in a wide array of sizes, with different functions and capabilities.

One thing they do have in common is that they do not require baristas to operate them.

Vending machine coffee is by no means a new trend – the option has been available since the 1940s. That said, there has been significant progress in the capability of these machines.

Traditional five option coffee vending machines allow consumers to push a button and receive a cup of scalding hot water mixed with instant coffee and powdered milk

Modern day “smart” vending machines are a far cry from this. They can now process mobile payments and dispense several customisable beverages, such as cappuccinos and lattes.

Significantly, like bean-to-cup machines, these advanced models use whole beans. This has dramatically improved the quality of the beverages and has contributed to the growing popularity of vending machine coffee.

Costa Coffee is one such brand that has ventured into offering vending machine coffee. The Costa Express coffee bar boasts freshly ground coffee made with fresh milk and has up to 500 options, hot or cold.

Essentially, the self-service machine offers barista quality coffees and promises to deliver “an authentic coffee shop experience” at the touch of a button.

While these machines are unable to replace the experiential nature of going for a cup of coffee, it is clear they address the critical aspect of convenience.

Notably, the compound annual growth of coffee vending machines is expected to grow by 5% between 2022 and 2030.

This is unsurprising when over 8 million cups of coffee and 2 million cups of tea are served by UK Vending machines every day, which shows the demand is clear.

An image of a consumer drinking coffee from a sustainable takeaway coffee cup in an article about understanding the growing popularity of vending machine coffee or self service coffee machines.

What are the benefits of vending machine coffee?

To understand the facility of vending machine coffee, it is important to understand coffee has a range of functions.

For instance, sometimes it is brewed to enjoy the unique flavour and complexity, while other times, the coffee is little more than a caffeine delivery system.

Therefore, some machines are built to fulfil one function, while others are design to meet another.

Regardless of how advanced the machine is, they are limited in which coffee roasts they can extract to satisfaction.

For consumers who prefer a lighter-bodied coffee with vibrant florals and sweet, juicy flavours, vending machines are likely to miss the mark. This is due to the majority of machines using a one-grind approach for all beverage choices.

And so, there remains a place for baristas – for the time being.

For darker roasts, which tend to be more forgiving at the expense of being a bit less complex, the smart vending machines perform admirably.

Notably, some may even even excel at consistency.

Another area where coffee vending machines may outperform a brick-and-mortar store is cost efficiency.

Although they need regular preventative maintenance, they are robust, will not require annual leave, and can handle heavy demand.

In addition, they are consistent with the ingredients used and can give detailed reports.

More so, these machines can be placed in high-footfall areas, luring customers with their simplicity, quick service, and ease of use.

Vending machines also have the added advantage of being a closed unit, making them more hygienic.  

From a consumer standpoint, the primary advantage of vending machine coffee is convenience. For the roaster, it is profit.

While the quality of coffee may vary, vending machines offer something invaluable in the fact they can be placed directly where the customer is.

An image of a roaster producing dark roasted coffee to cater to vending machine coffee or self service coffee machines in an article about understanding the popularity of vending machine coffee.

How roasters can get into the vending machine coffee market

It is clear vending machine coffee has a valuable role, as it can help alleviate demands on the most precious commodity – time.

For roasters who are looking to roast coffees to cater to vending machines, it is advisable to tailor the roast to suit the style of extraction commonly used.

If the beans are of high quality, they can survive a slightly darker roast and still taste remarkable.

That said, the cost of the coffee remains a factor. Therefore, it may not be an advisable outlet for the award-winning cup of excellence coffee that often requires a refined palette to appreciate.

As convenience becomes increasingly important to customers, roasters must adapt by minimising the steps required to get a great cup of coffee.

Once the appropriate roast profile has been achieved and the cost criteria met, roasters can diversify revenue streams to include vending machine coffee.

Adding this offering can be a worthwhile enterprise that affords a coffee more brand exposure and possible a wider audience. This, paired with custom-printed and branded, takeaway cups, gives roasters another opportunity to reiterate their brand’s core values.

An image of multilayer kraft paper coffee bag in an article on how roasters can profit from the growing popularity of vending machine coffee using custom-printed coffee packaging and branded takeaway coffee cups

MTPak Coffee can provide you with sustainable, custom-printed coffee cups made from sustainable materials, such as kraft paper, or PET, with a PLA lining.

In addition to being strong, waterproof, lightweight, and 100% compostable, we can custom-print your takeaway coffee cups to feature your brand using digital printing or sustainable water-based inks that are low in volatile organic compounds (VOC) and highly resistant to abrasion, water, and heat.

Our range of cups is available in three different sizes: 8oz, 12oz, and 16oz, and we offer a range of low minimum order quantity (MOQ) options. This means you can order as few as 500 fully customised units in just five working days.

MTPak Coffee also offers a range of 100% recyclable coffee packaging options made renewable materials such as kraft paper, rice paper, or multilayer LDPE packaging with an environmentally friendly PLA lining

More so, we give our roasters complete control over the design process by allowing them to build their own coffee bags and takeaway cups. This means we can help design coffee bags that explain the uniqueness of your sugarcane decaf coffee offerings. 

Plus, we are able to custom-print coffee bags using innovative digitally printing technology, with a quick turnaround time of 40-hours and 24-hour shipping time. 

For more information on sustainable, custom-printed coffee bags or takeaway cups, contact our team.

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