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Vitamin vending machines are a thing

Is the future of retail coin-operated?

At least one vitamin shop owner believes vitamin vending machines are the wave of the future. Hari Shotham, managing director of Vitamin Warehouse in Melbourne, Australia, has installed 13 machines, reports the Australian Journal of Pharmacy.

The vending machines have built-in computer screens that allow "the purchase of over 1,000 products of Swisse, Blackmores, Nature’s Own, Healthy Care, Centrum, Herron, Cenovis and every other brand not previously possible in any current pharmacy health food store or supermarket retail outlet," Shotham told AJP. The refrigerated machines also sell soda and perfume.

The screens on the machines also let shoppers chat with over 4,000 Australian naturopaths while they consider their vitamin purchases. Based on a poll, most AJP readers (37 percent) thought vitamin vending machines that give the public unlimited and unsupervised access to vitamins are "a bad idea for public health."

"Vending machines selling vitamins really goes beyond the pale, it’s a step too far," Ken Harvey, MD, adjunct associate professor at Monash University and spokesperson for Friends of Science in Medicine, told the journal.

With his fleet of machines, Shotham remains a fan. He doesn’t need to staff them and is able to monitor them through his smart phone. Theft is not a worry, like it might be in regular retail, because of the machine’s built-in security.

"Surprisingly, the numbers are amazing," Shotham told The Age. "We haven’t even got a proper sign out." The retailer said he was inspired by the potential of vending machines when he was working in Hong Kong. He installed his machines in December.

A few years ago, Canteen, the largest vending machine company in the U.S., debuted a machine that sold only gluten-free, vegan, organic, allergen-free, kosher and locally-sourced products. But wait, there’s more! The machine, called 2bu, is Energy Star-rated and has motion sensor dimmers to conserve energy when shoppers aren’t browsing. Customers would also use an LCD screen to check out nutritional info about each product.

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