Vending machines are for snacks, right? You don't expect someone to seriously consider eating a meal from a vending machine unless they have no other choice, and if it does come to that, the meal most of us would picture is probably heavy on the chips and candy food groups while being utterly void of anything substantive. But the image of vending machines that most American consumers have in mind is a very narrow one. Venturing further afield, you can find baguette vending machines in France, live crab vending machines in China, and there's even a vending machine in Abu Dhabi that spits out solid gold bullion (via Insider).
If you want to see the vending machine's full potential realized, look to Singapore, where vending machine revenues topped $104 million in pre-pandemic 2019, per the BBC. In this bustling city-state, vending machines dispense everything from salmon sashimi to wagyu beef, delivering luxury meals with mechanical expediency. CNN Travel visited the Chef-In-Box Vendcafe, an entire cafe in which all the food and beverage options are dispensed via vending machine, some stored frozen and microwaved before being deposited into your waiting hands. Given the combination of speed, affordability, and 24/7 convenience, it's rather shocking that such high-concept vending machines never took off on a global scale, especially when the biggest name in American convenience stores entered the game with a Western classic.
In the early 2000s, the folks at 7-Eleven, the same brilliantly unhinged minds that brought you the Slurpee and that chicken thing rolling around with the hot dogs, introduced one corner of the world to their latest madcap invention: the mashed potato vending machine (via Mothership). According to HuffPost, the machines were made in collaboration with Maggi, a company better known overseas for its seasoning powders and sauces, but also a popular producer of powdered mashed potatoes. Rather than make the customer labor through the effort of adding hot water and stirring, the vending machines took on the heavy lifting, dispensing a hot squirt of mashed potatoes followed by a dollop of gravy. There was also an option for 'BBQ mashed potato,' whatever that could be.
According to ABC, the machine could not match the taste or texture of real mashed potatoes, delivering a rather liquidy product, but it was fast and cheap at just $1.00 per cup. 7-Eleven didn't bring the mashed potato vending machine to any of their American locations though, keeping it an overseas specialty, primarily in Singapore (via HuffPost). Then, seemingly all of a sudden, the machines vanished. According to reporting by Mothership, 7-Eleven had decommissioned its mashed potato vending machines sometime before or around 2015, according to Mothership. No clear reason was given, although expensive upkeep, fading popularity, and potential food safety concerns were mentioned as possible factors.