Hamburger Vending Machines

The future of the $30 billion a year vending machine industry includes slider dogs, Nachos in a Bag, and pre-pickle-applied microwavable Dale Earnhardt Jr. cheeseburgers, writes Christopher Borrelli on assignment at the National Vending Show for the Chicago Tribune. Some of it, he says, is pretty good.

"Consider Pierre, a vending-machine food corporation with a name that suggests afternoon spritzers but actually makes a hamburger called the Big Az, which, indeed, is both its big seller and a subtle mockery of the body shape you will adopt if you regularly hit a vending machine in search of a Big Az. Pierre is at the high end of the quality scale, in terms of sandwiches that come in crinkly plastic wrappers and look disgusting. Pierre's sandwiches are not disgusting. Particularly its latest minis, sliderlike pulled pork sandwiches and breakfast biscuits.

Also a hot topic among vending machine owners at the convention: the future of vending machines at schools in a post-Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution climate. "Consider Inko's White Iced Tea, a new gentle-looking, gentle-tasting flavored tea in a can. Cecile Schamisso, wife of Andy Schamisso, the founder, told me, as did a number of companies, that they're eager to get out in front of the new school district nutrition guidelines, but 'it's hard to convince a high school kid to drink strawberry tea.'"

Check out the Trib's slideshow of future vending machine foods to get a glimpse of the slider dog, cotton candy machines, and Dale's Glazed Honey Bun.