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Vancouver company launching vending machine serving salads, fresh food

Last Updated Nov 25, 2020 at 2:32 pm PDT

Vancouver company UpMeals is aiming to make fresh food available to people through its vending machines. (Courtesy UpMeals/Youtube)

Vancouver company UpMeals is aiming to make fresh food available to people through its vending machines

When food can no longer be sold, it gets donated to the Vancouver Food Runners, a group serving meals to those in need

The company says vending machine combines refrigeration and software to keep it fresh

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Imagine getting your next salad bowl or cold-pressed juice from a vending machine, and not from a cafeteria.

One Vancouver-based company says it’s been able to make that a reality with its SmartVending solution, which uses refrigeration and software to keep products fresh, according to co-founder and CEO Drew Munro of UpMeals.

“We’ve actually built a software platform that helps our partners track valuable insights, data, sales trends, and learn more about their customers or their employees, and be able to help them live happier and healthier lives.”

The machine is billed as the first of its kind in B.C., and Munro says the meals can be customized for each space, based on people’s preferences.

“We design custom products for each partner brand that are designed just for those customers or employees in mind. So there are things like healthy salad bowls, entree bowls, entrees, healthy treats and snacks, cold-pressed juices and more. Everything that is possible, usually that you would think of getting from a normal cafe or cafeteria or healthy salad bar is actually possible through our machines.”

Munro says the company is inspired in part by his background in event catering.

“I actually ran an event catering business here in Vancouver for more than a decade. I’ve been involved in doing corporate catering for a very long time, and I realized that there was a need to service these companies with a solution that didn’t necessarily fit into a traditional catering service, or into a meal delivery service. A lot of people were doing partial work from home and flex time, and nobody was working traditional 9 to 5 hours anymore.”

The goal is to be able to access a healthy meal when a customer needs, while also generating as little waste as they can.

“We really designed each solution to try to be zero food waste, meaning that we don’t want any food waste to end up into the waste stream. We’ve partnered locally with a great program called the Vancouver Food Runners, and what happens is that any products that have passed optimal freshness to be sold to a paying customer – but are still perfectly edible, safe and healthy products – are repurposed the same day through this partnership to charities and individuals that are in need of healthy food sources.”

The machines also have an interesting connection to the man who created Pictionary: Robert Angel.

“He was one of our first and earliest investors, so he’s actually the uncle of one of our co-founder [Ryan Angel], who is a registered holistic nutritionist and a Red Seal chef. So, [Robert] got involved, he saw what we were doing, he is an amazing entrepreneur who has obviously developed one of the most popular games in the entire world, and he joined us seeing the potential.”

At this point, Munro says machines are in private offices, but the company is hoping to eventually branch out.

“We do have some really exciting partnerships to announce in the coming weeks and months, and our goal is to have these machines available in some locations accessible to the public. Examples would be places like airports, fitness centres or transit centres, where there would be a need for people to access healthy food.”