CHICAGO — Carolyn Marshall was headed to the gate for her American Airlines flight to California when she spotted the sleek tan machines with the neon sign across from Gate K6 at O’Hare International Airport.
She approached the side-by-side Farmer’s Fridge vending machines, tapped the touchscreen menu and was hooked. The machines, stocked twice a day, sell salads in a jar, sandwiches and wraps, Greek yogurt with granola and other healthy fare. Marshall ordered an Asian chopped salad and a couple hard-boiled eggs for $12, swiped her card, and the items tumbled out, one by one, like a can of Coke and a candy bar.
“I love this idea,” the Connecticut photographer said. “You’re going to spend the money anyway, so you might as well eat something healthy.”
Airport vending machines long ago expanded beyond soda and snacks — what frequent flyer hasn’t seen a Best Buy machine peddling Beats and Bose headphones and other name-brand electronics, or one of those pink, bus-shaped machines selling trendy Benefit Cosmetics?
But the number of machines and variety of items they dispense is on the rise as travelers embrace their convenience, airports love their limited real estate and 24-hour operation, and consumer brands use them as another outlet to serve existing customers and reach new ones.
Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport added more than two dozen machines this spring, including four that sell decadent Sprinkles Cupcakes.
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport is up to 15 machines, including two selling sundries from CVS, and is adding another one selling artsy Stance socks, a brand with more 1.3 million Instagram followers.