in the countryside, the invasion of vending machines


Autumn settles in Plouescat. Embraced by this gruff melancholy which makes the charm of the North-Finistériens, René Uguen, retired greedy, wonders if the time would not have come to return to the pot-au-feu. Paleron, scoter, bone marrow. Carrots, turnips, leeks, potatoes, onions. Problem: it's Sunday, it's 2 p.m., the butcher is off, the market gardener is taking a break and the supermarkets have lowered the curtain. However, shopping bags in hand, friend René leaves, sure of himself. Direction the boulevard de l'Europe, where a pair of food vending machines – one for meat, one for vegetables – nest at n° 51. Saved.

Would our Armorican gastronome be privileged and Plouescat an exception? Not at all. Since the beginning of the XXIe century, supply robots thrive in the land of Gault and Millau. The Gira Foodservice research institute now counts nearly 80,000 copies, which deliver a multitude of products, seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day, from bread to oysters, not forgetting cancoillotte , white pudding, eggs, raw milk and four-cheese pizza. They are shaped like American fridges, lit at night (until when?) and hyperconnected. Enough to feed version 3.0 of the Asterix's Tour of Gaul (Dargaud, 1965).

Distributors of bread and fresh products in Chaudron-en-Mauges (Maine-et-Loire), September 20, 2022.

Their substrate: the disappearance of local shops in rural areas and, according to Céline Massal, professor of geography, specialist in the subject, " the new residential functions of peri-urban spaces”. Not to mention the Covid-19 pandemic. “The vending machines remained open during the confinements. They offered contactless exchanges. They provided an excellent pretext for going out and never demanded a sanitary pass from anyone”, recall Frédéric and Alice Chauveau, bosses of KAO, a dealer for all brands located in Niort (Deux-Sèvres) from where it shines on the very great West. We are talking about an annual growth of the sector of 10%.

New modes of consumption

Jacques Mary is not surprised. And for good reason ! This machine to sell everything, it is he who invented it. In 1987, in Cholet (Maine-et-Loire). So he is sales manager for a design office. “I was tired of going home without bread because I was finishing my days too late. So, I developed an automaton inspired by those in place at video cassette rental companies », he says. Order them rain. It is glory. One of the bakery unions cries out for unfair competition and calls for a boycott. Orders stop. It's bankruptcy. Twenty years later, consumption patterns are modernizing. The market is diversifying and restarting with a bang. Being right too soon is a big mistake.

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