CHIBA >> Sales at vending machines, which allow people to buy goods without the risks that come with face-to-face transactions, have been brisk amid the prolonged pandemic.
In Chiba Prefecture, vending machines selling locally produced foods, such as vegetables and shellfish, are attracting attention.
One such machine, selling vegetables in Funabashi, was set up by Yoshikazu Hirano, who runs the Nishi-Funabashi Hirano Noen farm.
In April last year, Hirano began stocking the machine with komatsuna mustard spinach, edamame and other products he grows.
Because of states of emergency and other restrictions, orders from restaurants were cut by more than half, so he set up the vending machine with the hope of offsetting the lost sales.
Hirano said purchases have been brisk.
A key to that success is that he is efficient about refilling the machines with his fresh vegetables, which also include broccoli and daikon.
In November, Hirano added packs of komatsuna ramen — noodles with komatsuna powder kneaded into it — to the lineup. In the five months since then, about 400 packs have been sold.
Another vending machine, operated by the Kanehachi Suisan fishery company, sells a lineup of clams, the city’s specialty. Kintaro Uchiumi, company president, launched the sales in December.
Clam selections vary from mini to mega sizes. Customers who scan QR codes access recipes for preparing the clams.
The vending machines are provided by Jbag, a company based in Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture, that sells and manages secondhand machines. It began carrying the machines in 2019, but there was not much interest in them.
That all changed in February 2020, when the company received nearly 40 inquiries, mainly in the Kanto region, about using the vending machines for selling food.