History of Vending Machines
If you are like us, you probably go to sleep every night dreaming about the different types of vending machines that are on the market today. If that is the case and you are looking for ways to spice up your dreams with fresh vending machine material, you are in luck. We have written an article on the history of vending machines that will take you back to the first vending machines of Ancient Greece and then to the commercial vending machine resurgence of the 1880's. Read More.
Amazingly, vending machines have historical roots in ancient Greece! The first known vending machine was invented by the Greek engineer and mathematician Hero of Alexandria around 215 BC. These first vending machines were located in Egyptian temples and dispensed holy water in exchange for coins.
Despite this early innovation, it was not until the early 1880s that the first commercial coin-operated vending machines were introduced for public use. These vending machines dispensed post cards and were found in London. Around the same time, Richard Carlisle, an English publisher and bookshop owner, invented a vending machine that dispensed books.
Vending machines made their United States debut in 1888 when the Thomas Adams Gum Company installed machines on subway platforms in New York City to vend Tutti-Frutti gum. In 1897, the Pulver Manufacturing Company added animated figures to vending machines, which provided added entertainment for the customer as the figures would move once coins were deposited into the machine.
After these first vending machines were introduced, others soon followed, vending a wide variety of items including cigars, postcards and stamps. In 1902, the Horn & Hardart Baking Company opened a completely coin-operated Automat restaurant, which stayed in business until 1962.
Vending Machines Historical Timeline
• 1907 - Round candy-coated gumballs and gumball machines are introduced.
Soda Machines & Soft Drink Machines
• Early 1920's - The first automatic vending machines that dispense soda into cups are invented.
• 1930s – Chilled bottled soft drink machines are invented, followed by the first Coca-Cola bottle vending machine built by The Vendolator Company in 1937.
• 1961 – Canned soda machines are introduced.
• 1978 – Soft drink machines that dispense water are introduced.
• 1972 – Polyvend introduces the first glass front snack machines.
• 1987 – The first frozen food vending machines are introduced.
• 1926 - William Rowe, an American inventor, invents the first commercial cigarette vending machine.
Coffee Vending Machines
• 1946 – The invention of coffee vending machines popularizes their use for coffee breaks.
• 1960 – The first single-cup coffee vending machines come to market.
• 1988 – Bean-grinders are available in coffee vending machines.
• 1991 – Coffee vending machines offer flavored coffees, espresso and cappuccino.
Thanks for taking the time to learn a little more about our fun industry! Gumballs.com is proud to be one of the largest online retailers of bubble gum balls, gumball machines, candy machines, vending machines and other bulk vending supplies. Thanks again!
Starting a Vending Machine Based Business
If you are thinking about starting a vending machine based business (and we think that is a great idea), you are probably here looking for good information on how to get started. We have helped launch hundreds of vending machine businesses through machines, supplies and advice over the years that we have been in business. Helping entrepreneurs get their business started is one of the most rewarding parts of selling vending machines. Read More.
Below on this category page we have compiled excellent articles on vending machine best practices that we would recommend for any first time vendor. We also have a page dedicated to starting your own vending machine route business: How to Start a Vending Route Business
Once you have read these resources, if you still have questions about the best way to start purchasing and making money with vending machines than we would love to help you find the answers that you are looking for.
How to Find Perfect Vending Machine Locations
Identifying and securing the right locations for your vending machines is KEY to building a successful vending business. Read more.
Following are some tips on identifying new locations, places to look and approaching business owners/managers.
This may be obvious, but the most successful vending machines are located in high traffic locations. Areas with a lot of foot traffic will likely generate the most sales (and profit!) for your vending machines. Great locations include (but are not limited to):
- Shopping Centers/Malls
- Movie Theaters
- Car dealerships/Repair Shops
- Community Centers
- Hotel and Bank Lobbies
- Hospitals/Medical Centers
- Office complex/Manufacturing Facilities (break rooms and common areas)
- Public Farms/Petting Zoos; gumball machines set with a candy wheel can dispense animal feed
- Schools (particularly if you vend healthier items)
Remember…be creative! Seek out new venue opportunities while carrying on with other daily activities. Do you notice locations with heavy foot traffic with no vending machines?
Network. Create a list of people you know with access to new locations and gauge their interest in placing a vending machine. People to try could include:
- Business owners or managers
- Groups or organizations you are affiliated with, charities, etc.
- Family and friends
Once you have identified a promising location for a vending machine, approach the manager to ask about placing your machine. Be prepared to offer a commission and create a written document that outlines your agreement with the location. Or, you could offer a percentage of proceeds to a charity that is supported by the business. Offer the location
manager a percentage of earnings from the vending machine versus a flat fee. You do not know how much money your machine will generate until it is operational. Offering a percentage will avoid giving all your earnings to the location manager should your machine not perform.
Finally, there are vending machine location services available, and if you are short on time or having trouble identifying locations on your own, you might consider working with one. Keep in mind that these services do charge a premium for their service, which will cut into your bottom line. We have found that one of the most effective ways to identify a location is to take notice of where you DON’T see vending machines as you are carrying out the business of your day. Would adding a vending machine make sense? What is the foot traffic like? Good luck!
Deciding What to Vend in Your Vending Machine
You’ve purchased your vending machine and identified your location. Now for the “sweet” stuff…deciding what items to vend from your gumball or candy machine! Let's decide.
Gumballs, Candy, Bouncy Balls…Oh My!
You’ve purchased your vending machine and identified your location. Now for the “sweet” stuff…deciding what items to vend from your gumball or candy machine!
To achieve maximum results, spend some time investigating different varieties of gumballs and bulk candy before loading your vending machine. Without the right product, even a vending machine set in a great location might not do as well.
Keep in mind that while the final decision of what to vend is yours, it’s a good idea to ask the location manager about any candy or gumball preferences.
Which Dispensing Wheel?
When you purchased your gumball or candy machine, you may have specified to have the machine set with either a gumball dispensing wheel or a candy dispensing wheel. Or, your machine may come with both dispensing wheels, and it’s up to you to decide which one you will use based on what you choose to vend.
The difference between a gumball and a candy dispensing wheel is the shape of the holes. Gumballs dispensing wheels and candy dispensing wheels are interchangeable. A dispensing wheel that has round holes is a GUMBALL DISPENSING WHEEL. This wheel is intended to dispense a 1” item, such as a 1” gumball, 27MM bouncy ball or 1” toy capsule.
The other type of dispensing wheel is a CANDY DISPENSING WHEEL. This wheel has holes in the shape of a pizza slice that are adjustable to dispense more or less product. Use this wheel if you are dispensing bulk candy, smaller gumballs (.62” or smaller), chiclet gum, nuts, chocolate covered espresso beans, etc.
Gumballs are the highest profit bulk candy available, and they are a great option because they have a long shelf life and are not affected by heat from the sun (please note Gumballs.com does NOT recommend placing any gumball or candy machine in direct sunlight ). If you choose to vend gumballs, be sure to check them periodically to be sure they are soft to the bite. Gumballs generally stay soft enough for chewing for 10-18 months, but can get hard over time.
The most common sized gumball for dispensing from a commercial gumball machine is 1”. If you want to vend 1” gumballs, be sure your machine is set with a gumball dispensing wheel. The assorted varieties are best sellers, but do not overlook some of the more specialty flavors or varieties. Some ideas…if your machine is located near the beach, try Beach Ball or Beach Time gumballs. Baseball gumballs during baseball season. If you prefer not to have a logo on your gumballs, try the Bubble King Special Assorted. Try the red, white and green assortment over the holidays or red, white and blue around the 4 th of July. Or, just pick your favorite flavor! Personal favorites among the gumball experts at Gumballs.com include Limeade, Kicked Up Lemonade Sour gumballs, Nerds Candy-Filled gumballs, Cry Baby Guts Sour-Filled gumballs…and we are loving the new flavors from Dubble Bubble…Bubble Gum Mint and Root Beer Float!
The #1 selling bulk candies are M&Ms, both plain and peanut. However, consider your location before loading your candy machine. Is the machine near a window with exposure to the sun? M&Ms, Reece’s Pieces or any type of bulk candy that can melt may not be the best choice.
Non-chocolate, top selling bulk candy options include Mike and Ikes, Skittles, Chewy Sprees and Runts. Be wary of Mike and Ikes and Hot Tamales if your machine has sun exposure. While they do not melt like chocolate candies, they can get soft when they are warm and can stick together, which can make them difficult to vend. Skittles, Chewy Sprees, Runts, Polar Mints or other hard shelled candies are great options for machines with sun exposure. The hard shell on the outside keeps the product from getting too soft.
Bouncy Balls in the 27MM size are an alternate option for machines set with a 1” gumball wheel. These are a great non-candy option and bouncy balls are always fresh!
Bulk nuts are another great option for candy vending machines, especially in locations frequented by an older population. Assorted nuts, peanuts in several flavor profiles, pistachios and cashews are great choices, but there are lots of varieties to choose from.
Overwhelmed by all the choices? Gumballs.com is here to help! Call us at 1-800-307-7900 Monday through Friday and let our experts help advise you on your candy conundrum!
Why Should I Buy A Vending Machine?
The real question is, why not vending? According to Vending Times, total sales through vending machines have grown from $600 million in 1946 to more than $45 billion today. Dollar volume from vending machine sales continues to grow. Learn more.