When I first saw Farmer’s Fridge at the airport, I’ll admit I was skeptical.
The idea of a fresh salad from a vending machine didn’t seem right. But after I tried it, I was sold on the idea of healthy options in more places, 24/7.
“Really the idea is it’s the world’s smallest restaurant,” explained Farmer’s Fridge founder and CEO Luke Saunders.
We recently met up at Crypto.com Arena (formerly Staples Center), where there are three of his refrigerated vending machines.
I asked him how he feels when he sees his idea at one of the most iconic arenas in America.
“It feels amazing… the idea from the beginning has been how do you get fresh food everywhere,” said Saunders.
Farmer’s Fridge is a growing network of smart vending machines stocked with freshly made salads, wraps, bowls and breakfast items.
“I was a traveling salesman I was looking for healthy options on the go, the only options were fast food and a gas station, I just figured if we could just get food to people faster, we could make fresh healthy food more accessible,” said Saunders.
10 years later, Farmer’s Fridge is available in over 1,000 locations. A mix of 650 fridges and 400 retail locations in places like airports, hospitals, schools, stadiums and more.
Soon, you might see them in more retail locations including Costco and Target.
Food is prepped in Chicago, then trucked to the locations overnight.
An algorithm determines where food goes to ensure peak freshness.
“Every day we don’t know where the food is going. So, at 6 o’clock we run a cost function algorithm. Basically, a fancy way to tell us where to send all products, then we load it on our own refrigerated trucks with our own drivers and they travel all across the country to fill fridges,” explained Saunders, who has a patent on their “just in time” technology.
Clear fridges and containers let you see the fresh products and you can order from the screen or your phone. At airports you can even nab a 25% discount by ordering from your phone.
Once the product is dispensed, you can shake it up and eat it right from the recyclable jar or grab a place from the side of the machine and use that. Keep in mind, there is no fork inside the container so be sure to grab one before you go.
I tried the Elote salad and was super impressed at the freshness. The greens were crunchy and there was a nice mix of fresh flavors and ingredients.
Saunder’s goal is to make healthy food at reasonable prices available 24/7 and just as easily as a candy bar or sweets.
“So, if it’s just as convenient, it’s affordable, it tastes great, you stop thinking about whether or not it’s healthy,” concluded Saunders.