A new generation of beverage machines is offering a fresh take on workplace refreshment by delivering a wide range of custom-prepared vitamin-enhanced fruit juice drinks at the touch of a button. The novel Fructomat bag-in-box postmix machine has been in operation in 25 countries for several years and just recently became available in North and South America.
Dmitry Sharin, a full-line vending operator who has served the greater Los Angeles market for the past 15 years, sought out a "greener," healthier beverage solution in response to customer demand a few years ago. He found the Austrian-made Fructomat machine while surfing the Web.
PHOTO: Juice vending machines roll off the assembly at Fructomat's main factory in Steyr, Austria. Pictured here is the Maxi 6VE, the manufacturer's flagship vender. It offers six fruit drink flavors, purified water and carbonated beverages. It also has flavor-mixing capability and can be equipped with a tank when a waterline is unavailable. [Inset: Fructomat venders and dispensers.]
Sharin sourced a Fructomat machine from its manufacturer and spent almost two years researching and finding the most suitable drink concentrate producer and copacker to develop a premium-quality bag-in-box assortment of the most popular beverages on the market.
Sharin tested the Fructomat on his vending routes. The enthusiastic response from clients in offices, schools, nursing homes and car dealerships alike demonstrated the wide demand for the machine and he quickly ramped up its deployment. Convinced of the industrywide opportunity, Sharin established Fructomat USA, which is the exclusive distributor of the machine in the Americas. Sharin serves as president of the U.S. beverage company.
"Europe has the same campaign as the U.S. about going green, and being healthy, which is why the machine has been very popular there," explained Sharin. "Fructomat's vitamin-enriched juices satisfy demand for healthier drinks, and it's 100% green because there are no cans or bottles; customers can use their own cup and the bag and box that hold the concentrate are fully recyclable." He added that the machines conserve energy because only the amount of water needed for each drink is chilled at the time of preparation.
The Fructomat benefits the operator by eliminating labor and expenses associated with handling and storing finished packaged drinks. Depending on the machine model (prices range from $1,700 to $5,000), it can deliver a higher volume of beverages than a can or bottle vender, reducing service frequency and vehicle expense. "Operators typically charge the location a rental fee for the Fructomat machines, which covers their monthly lease payment," Sharin said.
Another clear advantage of the Fructomat over vended packaged drinks, said Sharin, is a lower purchase price for the customer and higher profit margin for the vendor. The one-gallon bag-in-box yields approximately 320 8-fl.oz. drinks, according to Sharin. The cost per ounce to the operator is less than 2¢, or 14¢ per 8-fl.oz. cup. The drinks typically vend for 50¢ for a 10-fl.oz. drink to $1 for a 16-fl.oz. cup.
"The location can choose with any model to vend the drinks at full cost to the employee," explained Sharin. "Or they can completely subsidize the cost of the product and offer complimentary drinks to their employees and visitors. They can also subsidize the cost of the beverages and charge a reduced vend price."
In addition to an array of appealing beverage choices, all Fructomats dispense fresh, double-filtered water, which Sharin says is a huge selling point in itself.
"The machine can replace the conventional water cooler, providing pure water and a selection of beverages for what they were paying for water alone," he pointed out. "The Fructomat is a great complement to OCS; the drinks cost less than a cup of coffee. I place Fructomats as a free trial in new accounts and in accounts I already serve, and they always love it. I never end up removing the machine."
The Fructomat comes in a dozen models -- from countertop dispensers that can be fitted with payment mechanisms to full-size vending machines. This enables the operator to customize a program to suit each client's needs. Depending upon the machine and the cup size, Fructomats can dispense up to 4,000 drinks before requiring refilling.
Countertop Fructomat models -- offered as manual dispensers or vending machines -- include the Midi 4 and Midi 6. They accommodate four and six beverage varieties, respectively, and allow the patron to mix any two beverages and opt to carbonate their selections for added variety. The patron can also adjust their drink strength from "light" drink (less concentrate) to "long" (more concentrate). Optional base stations are available.
The freestanding Cool Mix model provides four drink selections and features an external cup holder. And for the highest-volume sites, Frucomat's flagship Maxi 6VE full-size vending machine, with a built-in cup dispenser, offers four to six selections, flavor-mixing capability and the option of still or carbonated beverages. All Fructomat machines are fully customizable with the operator's choice of graphics.
The aseptically packaged juice concentrate comes in 25 varieties, fortified with essential vitamins and minerals. They include vitamin waters, flavored teas, energy and sports drinks, fruit punch, lemonade, and apple, cranberry, dragonfruit and acai pomegranate juice. Many offerings are low-sugar and sugar-free. The beverages are reconstituted to 10%, 25% or 100% juice from concentrate, depending on the specific drink and the water-to-concentrate ratio, which is operator programmable from 1:4 to 1:29.
To install the bag-in-box, the operator simply tears open a pre-scored opening at one end of the box to access the built-in port and connect it to the machine's nozzle. The port contains a one-way valve that opens only with pressure from the attached nozzle, preventing contamination of the concentrate and guaranteeing a 100% hygienic product.
Fructomat's MidMix technology uses a hermetically sealed "whirl chamber" to ensure a homogeneous mixture of fruit pulp and water. Machines can be connected to a potable water source or, if a mains supply is not available, pumped into the machine from a five-gallon bottle.
A password-protected electronic menu allows authorized users to easily adjust beverage sweetness, intensity and price, language settings and drink counters.
All Fructomat vending machines ship standard with MDB, executive and parallel payment systems communications protocols. Dollar bill acceptors, coin changers and token systems are available options.
The machines feature a telemetric system that automatically sends a text message to the operator's PC or mobile phone whenever a refill is needed, a malfunction has occurred, or sanitation maintenance is required.
According to Sharin, Fructomat upkeep is minimal, since the machine has an automatic rinse cycle and few mechanical parts, and its powerful dry-cooling system requires no maintenance.
More information on the Fructomat and available financing options is available by calling the company at (800) 806-0506, or by visiting fructomatusa.com.