A Vending Machine That Dispenses Free Samples

It is hard to believe the concept of a free sample vending machine is new. Sampling is a popular marketing method, but often it is more expensive to distribute the sample than cost of the sample itself. Most often they are handed out in stores or delivered through unaddressed Admail by the post office.free-sample

The Boobox, developed by Fosfor, a Belgian marketing and design agency,  is a prototype for a stand-alone machine that distributes product samples. But how do you stop people from emptying it? Have the send a text message to it!

Consumers interested in getting a free sample simply send a free SMS, in exchange for which they are given an activation code. That, in turn, gives them access to the sample. Unlike most vending machines, the Boobox is completely adjustable to samples with different sizes, weights and forms.

It also includes an onboard refrigeration system for items such as dairy products and cooled beverages. The height of the machine’s display and keyboard can even be adjusted for use alongside an accompanying poster advertisement.


According to the Japan Vending Machine Manufacturers Association, there are about 5.5 million vending machines, including those selling tickets, in Japan, making it the second largest vending machine country in the world after the United States. About 2.6 million of them sell soft drinks.

Vending machines in Japanmay have already reached saturation point, but now they are being designed to improve the environment.  In November, a “My Cup” vending machines was installed in the annex of the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry in Kasumigaseki, Tokyo.

People use their own cups to buy juice and coffee in order to reduce the use of paper cups.

A ministry official said that if the experiment at the ministry went well, the ministry would encourage companies to install such vending machines in their offices.

Starting in 2003, Coca-Cola Japan Co. installed vending machines that can be remotely controlled to provide drinks free of charge in case of a disaster.  It has already installed about 1,000 such machines in various parts of the country. The vending machines in the city hall of Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture, provided bottles of tea and water to residents after the Chuetsu earthquake struck in October 2004.

Vending machines equipped with security cameras and emergency buzzers to protect children have recently been installed along school routes.

Vending machines that sell alcohol are gradually being replaced by models capable of checking the age of a customer by scanning a form of ID, such as a driver’s license, thereby preventing minors from buying spirits.

In 2008 a cigarette vending machine equipped with a system that can verify the age of a customer by reading a data card–issued to only adults–will be introduced.

One other interesting observation is that many vending machines in Japan have been designed to dispense hot drinks in the winter and then convert to dispense cold drinks in the summer.

According to a 2004 report from vending machine manufacturer, Vencoa the total dollar volume spent in vending machines in the US continued a ten-year pattern of increases. In 1994, the total vended dollar volume was $29,284,100,000. In 2004, the total vended dollar volume reached $44,190,409,000.

The top 5 categories were as follows:

Packaged Cold Beverages (soft drinks, juice, water, tea, energy, isotonic drinks in cans and bottles) $22,391,000,000 – 50.7%

Snacks, Confections, Pastry (single serve candy, snack, and pastry sold through non-refrigerated vending machines) $9,003,000,000 – 20.4%

Hot Drinks – $4,213,809,000 – 9.5%

Vended Foods (refrigerated, frozen, can/bowl pack, and other meal items) $3,118,325,000 – 7.1%

Cold Drinks (cup drop vend) $1,509,000,000 – 3.4%

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Send a text message to a cell phone vending machine to receive your new cell phone. Hmm.

  2. Sandy McNeil says:

    I think in today’s vending machine market, the video rental box (Red Box) is quickly becoming one of the biggest grossing products.

    I only wish they’d give out free samples 😦

  3. Mike says:

    Wow, that’s awesome! Makes sense, especially when …

    1. Mike says:

      Oops, screwed up my comment. I was going to say something about how, in some countries they have marketing and advertising through text messaging, and since this machine requires you to text them, they have the opportunity to collect people’s info and market that way also. There’s some powerful stuff that they can do with that.

  4. Alex Griffin says:

    I’ve noticed these free sample machines starting to show up in grocery stores. Really clever idea and I think they work for the products being sampled. Before I go to the grocery, I get coupons and samples at ShopAtHome.com and with these machines, they provided me ways to try new products and still save.

  5. Joseph says:

    Hello Alex,
    Can you please tell me where to find these free sample machines? I know a belgian company invented these machines but I never saw one.
    In which stores did you see them and where can I buy these machines?

  6. lili says:

    really nice idea! 🙂

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