Blue Bottle Coffee launches first vending machine

Image credit: Blue Bottle Coffee Japan

Blue Bottle Coffee installed its first vending machine, Blue Bottle Coffee Quick Stand, in the Shibuya area of Tokyo, Japan on 7 August.

Based on its mission to familiarise more people with specialty coffee, Blue Bottle Coffee, which was founded in Oakland, California in the early 2000s, entered the Japanese market in 2015. As of September 2020, it operates 20 cafés throughout Japan, and has been expanding specialty coffee-related products such as instant coffee, cold brew canned coffee, along with coffee brewing goods, cups, bags, etc. Those products are now sold in its cafés and online shop.

The vending machine is unique sales method for soft drinks in Japan. The Japan Soft Drink Association estimates that over two million vending machines for PET bottled or canned beverages are in operation in almost all public facilities as well as at every corner of the street nationwide. The machines have been advanced and sophisticated over the years. A cashless payment function is becoming especially popular lately, responding to the move from notes and coins to electronic money or credit cards.

Blue Bottle Coffee Japan started to consider how to utilise a vending machine to distribute their items before the outbreak of the pandemic. It customised a pair of vending machines exclusively for its products, and its icon, the blue bottle illustrations, appear on the white-coloured machines, which now accept cashless payments only.

Shibuya is one of the busiest and most crowded areas in Tokyo, however, Blue Bottle Coffee has not opened a café there, yet. Therefore, the company selected a parking lot, Mitsui’s Repark, in Shibuya as the best site for the installation of their first vending machine. Consequently, Blue Bottle Coffee expects the vending machines can help its existing and new customers purchase its products conveniently and quickly.

Blue Bottle Coffee sells several types of cold brew canned coffee (236ml, JPY 640, each) in the machine. In addition, it sells whole bean coffee (Bella Donovan blend, 200g, JPY 1620), instant coffee (4g stick × 5 per box, JPY1620), and an eco-coffee cup (340ml, JPY 1980), which differentiate its vending machine from popular RTD machines. The canned drinks are cooled at 5 degrees Celsius, and others are kept at 20 degrees Celsius.

“The response from the consumers are quite good so far. We keep promoting the joy of specialty coffee as much as we can, and we view a vending machine is one of the useful and established sales channels in Japan which can offer fast and practical service,” said Megumi Yoshida, Blue Bottle Coffee Japan’s PR manager.

Outside of the United States and Japan, Blue Bottle Coffee also operates cafés in Korea, but the company’s foray into selling coffee through vending machines is currently in Japan only.

  • Yumi Nakatsugawa has been working as a freelance writer specialising in food and restaurant management. While freelancing, she developed a love of black tea as well as tea-producing countries and tea people. Her passion for black tea has brought her to Sri Lanka, India, Kenya, Indonesia, Nepal, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea to see tea production firsthand.
    Based in Japan, Yumi may be reached at: [email protected].

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