Fancy a salad from a vending machine?
Louis Fraysse believes that fast food can be healthy food, even when it comes out of a vending machine.
He started a business called Nature’s Fridge, with the goal of providing refrigerated vending machines filled with salads, smoothies, chia bowls and other highly nutritious superfoods in Auckland.
Fraysse previously ran two cafes on Auckland’s north coast after migrating from her native France to New Zealand over 12 years ago.
He noticed that customers wanted fresh, healthy food that could be bought on the go, so he developed the idea of turning a coffee shop window into a vending machine.
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“The idea just tilts a coffee shop window onto its side. With the same healthy food, fresh ingredients and information on what’s going on in the meals. I thought it might be a good thing that meets the demand for healthy, fresh meals, ”said Fraysse.
When Fraysse saw a successful American business selling fresh produce from vending machines, he decided to give the idea a chance in New Zealand.
He obtained an MBA from Massey University, with the Nature’s Fridge concept as his thesis project.
Fraysse has spent years developing a food production system that works like clockwork.
“We order the day before and prepare the afternoon. In the morning we get up stupidly early and arrive at the kitchen at 4am. Then we place the meals in clear plastic mason jars. From that point on we go to our vending machines and before lunch the vending machine will be full of fresh produce, ”said Fraysse.
Freshness is essential to the economic model. If people buy a salad for lunch from the vending machine, it will have been made two hours ago. The maximum duration of a meal in the refrigerated vending machine is 25 hours.
The ultimate goal is to create a circular business model, said Fraysse.
It has partnered with the Fair Food NZ charity to distribute uneaten food to Auckland’s homeless population.
Reusable jars are another element of the circular business model. Each meal is prepared in a high quality PET plastic mason jar. There are collection points next to each vending machine and customers are encouraged to return the jar.
After two years of working to test the concept and prepare the vending machines, Covid-19 has arrived and brought it back to square one, Fraysse said.
Two weeks before the September lockdown, Fraysse launched a testing machine at the University of Auckland and was shocked at the popularity of the machine.
“When we launched at the University of Auckland I was nervous how people would work with the machine, but people absolutely loved it.
“We sold every day in three hours,” Fraysse said.
But its expansion plans have had to be postponed due to the lockdown.
As soon as the restrictions are lifted, Fraysse has big plans to move her machines around Auckland during the year.
“We believe that within a year we can put 50 machines into service in Auckland. We will think that in the coming years we will have the potential to put a total of 100 machines all over the city, ”said Fraysse.