Ever wondered what it’s like to shop in a worn-out shopping center? Singapore’s neighborhood of Kovan isn’t an ideal place to shop, especially if you’re looking for salmon or wagyu beef. But seeing them displayed on vending machines, readily available to be purchased and eaten, seems too good to be true.

Singapore’s vending machines have taken it to the next level. You don’t only see typical food and drinks in the machines, but stuff like bread, curry puffs, freshly cooked pizza, freshly squeezed orange juice, and even cooked chili crab are there, too. Vending machines for books and even cacti exist in Singapore. And that’s not all: unstaffed convenience stores are also present, where everything is sold out of machines.

Why vending machines? Manish Kumar, managing director of salmon vending machines, says that these machines offer him his own retail space. For Mervin Tham, one of the three founders of a wagyu beef vending machine chain, the variety of such machines is expanding due to the fairly low entry barriers. “It’s a low-effort way of testing a product, especially if you’re starting a business of your own. And generally, there’s some interest towards the automated retail culture that you see overseas, like in Japan,” Tham says.

Because of the pandemic, however, Euromonitor forecasted a significant drop in Singapore’s vending machine industry. But the vending machines played a key role in the country’s pandemic response since they’re 24/7 and contactless. This means people don’t need to go to the supermarket to buy food and other necessities.

Vending machines have proven themselves time and again to be extremely handy to the public. They’re easily accessible and it’s easier to buy things from there. So whether there’s a pandemic or not, these small yet powerful machines will continue to prove their convenience not only in Singapore but all over the world.