Vending machines that use less juice talk up a storm

JIJI

Beverage companies have been installing new high-tech vending machines packed with new features, lower power consumption and the ability to greet customers in their regional dialects.

Since the nation has been saturated with vending machines for decades, beverage firms must compete fiercely for the right to install one in a busy location near a commercial facility or office building. This competition is now prompting companies to deploy machines with unique characteristics, according to the Japan Vending Machine Manufacturers Association.

In January, Coca-Cola (Japan) Co. launched a new power-saving model that shuts off its cooling system during the day but chills the drinks at night to take advantage of cheaper electricity rates. During the day, drinks stay cool for as long as 16 hours.

A Coca-Cola Japan official said the company wants to expand use of the power-saving units because their daytime power consumption during the summer is 95 percent less than conventional vending machines, which have long been criticized as a waste of electricity.

In 2003, Osaka-based DyDo Drinco Inc. developed a vending machine that can greet people in either standard Japanese or the local Kansai dialect. The machines can now speak 12 dialects, including those used in Miyagi, Fukushima, and Okinawa prefectures.

In 2012, DyDo machines were placed by the main entrance of City Hall in Naha, Okinawa, after winning praise from local officials concerned that their local dialect was being endangered.

Asahi Calpis Beverage Co., a Tokyo-based unit of Asahi Group Holdings Ltd., has developed a vending machine system that manages sales and electricity use on a per-unit basis.

It aims to expand the number of machines by using those features, including profit estimate calculations based on their data records.

Beverage giants believe it is hard to expect profit growth at retail stores ahead of the April 2014 sales tax hike. Since machines are expected to generate stable sales, the firms hope to ensure profitability by their locations.