Looking for salmon or wagyu beef in a worn-out shopping center is challenging. They’re products we normally buy in supermarkets, but if you see them displayed on vending machines, you’ll be tempted to buy them right then and there. This is the case in Singapore.

Vending machines in Singapore are not only limited to typical food and drinks like canned soda, but you’ll see bread, curry puffs, freshly cooked pizza, freshly squeezed orange juice, and even cooked chili crab there, too. There are even vending machines for books and cacti. You might also come across convenience stores with no staff and customers make their purchases via vending machines.

But why do these businesses start using vending machines? For Manish Kumar, managing director of salmon vending machines, they offer him his own space for retail. Mervin Tham, one of the three founders of a wagyu beef vending machine chain, says that the machine’s variety continues to expand because of fairly low entry barriers. Tham says, “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.”

However, Euromonitor predicted a huge drop in Singapore’s vending machine industry when the pandemic struck. Still, vending machines played a vital role during the pandemic since they’re contactless, available 24/7, and people don’t risk getting the virus from going to supermarkets. In a way, people are safer buying from vending machines than going to stores.

Vending machines are created for convenience. They’re easily accessible in public places and making purchases from them is effortless. Even before the pandemic hit, these small yet powerful machines have proven their usefulness and will continue to do so in the future.