You can see them around more and more often: vending machines that offer eggs, grilled meat or fresh fruit and vegetables. These are often set up by farmers* who are looking for an additional outlet for their goods. In the Palatinate, in the Kandel area, there are now more and more Zalat-O-Maten: vending machines for fresh fruit, vegetables and other regional products. Behind them is Lisa Zapf, who is putting her 11th location and 16th vending machines into operation this month.
Lisa Zapf at the opening of one of the locations
The 23-year-old trained insurance saleswoman has a mission: She wants to introduce consumers in and around Kandel and Landau to fresh, regional quality goods, and not through any of the traditional sales channels.
"Although I studied for a different profession, it was always clear to me that I wanted to work in my parent's farming business," says Zapf, who is passionate about agriculture. "I took over the marketing aspects and quickly realised that the wholesale market was not for me. Eventually, I bought my first three vending machines in 2016 and put them into action."
Since then she has optimised her concept and she will be installing three new vending machines this month. The locations vary - from the inner cities of Landau and Kandel to smaller towns where there is no other possibility to buy fresh fruit and vegetables. "Some of my Zalat-O vending machines stand alone; in some locations I have joined forces with other growers to offer a wider range of products."
And the concept is a success: "Our vending machines are stocked with fresh produce every day and our customers can buy fresh, regional produce there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. That goes down well everywhere: Working people are independent of the opening hours of the supermarkets, students enjoy the flexibility and convenient availability of regional products, and in smaller villages, one doesn't necessarily have to travel far away to get basic products such as fruit, vegetables, eggs or pasta."
Rich, seasonal product selection: From apples to courgettes; everything is available.
Recently, Zapf was even contacted by a mayor from one of the nearby villages: "Many citizens in his village would have liked one of my Zalat-O-Mats in particular. That makes me proud, of course. I stand for regional agriculture with my brand and my product, and it's great to see that that goes down well."
All in all, Zapf heralds a next generation of food supply: "Especially in view of the current situation with the coronavirus, consumers appreciate contactless shopping without long queues."
Double station in Maximiliansau
The Zalat-O-Maten are loaded with seasonal and regional goods: "At the moment, pumpkins, beetroot, cucumbers and courgettes are the big sellers. The vegetables come mainly from my parents' farm. I buy fruit and other products such as eggs and pasta from other farmers* in the region.
The vending machines operated by Lisa Zapf are Regiomats from Stüwer LLC. In fact, she is so convinced of the vending machines that she now sells them herself, together with her partner Olaf Heid: "Expansion is limited naturally - the goal is to offer regional products, so I can't easily set up my vending machines all over Germany. But it is very important for me to pass on this concept to farmers nationwide."
With Olaf Heid at an "Explanatory afternoon" at the Steinweiler site.
The entrepreneur's next project is also in partnership with Regiomat®: "We are working on an 'Apphol' machine. Our customers can individually compile and pay for their purchases here in advance, and we will then deliver the complete order to the machine. The customers then simply pick up the parcel by QR code. Like having a greengrocer next door - in a digital way."
Zalat-o-maten in Kandel: on the far left a "normal" vending machine with cash and card payment. In the middle and on the right the brand new automatic App-based machines.