Australia's first banana vending machine takes off in Brisbane

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Australia's first banana vending machine takes off in Brisbane

The launch of a new banana vending machine in Brisbane, Queensland holds promising outcomes for its creators at Mackays Bananas. Daniel Mackay, third generation farmer and company manager told this idea originated from a new prepacking system 20 years ago. Bananas _ Mackays Bananas

"We thought it was a great way to be able to package clusters of fruit and send them from far north Queensland, which is 1,500km (932mi) from the closest major city," he said.

The decision to a new shrink-wrapper and begin further developing the idea came from customer feedback that wrapped fruit was not available for purchase.

"A lot of people told us that wrapped small fruit is what they’re looking for and it wasn’t being offered.

"This also gave us a chance to distinguish our smaller fruit."

While the new vending machine is stocked with the same Williams Cavendish variety, Mackays has had to change its production methods to accommodate for the smaller and less curved shape of the fruit.

"We changed a few techniques so it can give us the right size banana down the bottom, which then slows down some of our growing practices.

He adds that this change results in a much richer taste of the bananas.

"If you grow a bit slower and longer it actually adds to the taste profile."

banana-barThe Banana Bar

Mackay said finding stockists had proven to be a hurdle for designing the vending machine, also known as the 'Banana Bar'.

"Originally we’ve started off with testing a machine with individual windows, where you pick a number and the window opens for you to take the fruit out. People in Australia didn't want to stock it, so the idea had to go. That was about two years ago.

"We've actually gone back to a more traditional design. This one is very similar to the normal vending machines. This is what we needed for people to stock and supply it."

"The major difference in our vending machine is that it has an elevator to lower the fruit safely to the customers.

"Another difference is that we run it at 12°C (53.6°F), which is the best temperature to keep the fruit in, particularly with bananas."

The vending machine is serviced every day for temperature control and quality checks to ensure the bananas' shelf life is kept at three days.

"The fruit in the machines are good to last three days, but we check them every day just to make sure the bananas are still of good quality."

MacKay adds that the stock is usually replaced on the second day, despite the fruit's shelf life.

"We try to update it at least every two days even if they could last three."

Future Developments

Mackay said the biggest challenge was ripening bananas to the right condition, which meant the Banana Bar needed to be visited more frequently than regular vending machines.

Currently The Banana Bar offers customers ready-to-eat bananas retailing at AUD$2 (US$1.78) for three or AUD$3 (US$2.68) for five, with additional spring water supplied from a local family business. Mackay said that if all went well, he would consider selling other locally produced goods.

"Right now we also stock water from a local family business in the Gold Coast. We would like to also look to other local produce that’s in the area and in season.”

Under current projections and customer feedback, Mackay said The Banana Bar would expand across Australia and include other public places.

"We’re very happy with the responses and support we've been getting.

"We will continue with Brisbane and keep extending into the [Brisbane] CBD, then hopefully move down to Sydney and Melbourne. Then we’ll venture out to where you currently see vending machines - certainly schools, universities and hospitals which are right on top of the list."

Photos: Mackay Bananas



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