With their ubiquitous presence in various industries, vending machines have proven to be effective business tools, offering convenience, accessibility, and flexibility. These automated machines have evolved from simple snack vending machines to innovative solutions that span multiple industries, facilitating quick transactions and enhancing the consumer experience.
Vending machines in the Chinese market
Alibaba founder Jack Ma has recently embarked on a new venture in the Chinese food industry, launching his own startup called “Hangzhou Ma’s Kitchen Food.”
The company,incorporated in Ma’s hometown of Hangzhou with registered capital of 10 million yuan (about $1.4 million), will focus on selling pre-packaged food, importing and exporting, and marketing edible agricultural products.
While lacking public details on the business model or specific products of “Ma’s Kitchen,” speculation points to Jack Ma’s interest in China’s burgeoning ready-to-eat meals market.
In line with the success of vending machines, the project will aim to produce and distribute hot and ready meals through vending machines.
According to Euromonitor International, China’s ready-to-eat meals market was worth about 71.1 billion yuan (about $9.9 billion) last year, up 28 percent from 2018. Demand for prepackaged foods, including meal kits, has been steadily growing, highlighting a change in Chinese consumers’ eating habits.
Ben Cavender, CEO of China Market Research Group, emphasized the wide scope for innovation in this sector and noted that prepackaged meals and, as a result, vending machines are becoming increasingly popular.
The reasons behind this trend include the decrease in dining out, consumers’ search for variety and lack of time. Habits acquired during the pandemic, with the growing interest in convenient food options, may have helped push more people into this sector.
In conclusion, Jack Ma’s entry into the food industry with “Ma’s Kitchen” reflects the growing interest in ready-to-eat meals in China and could mark a new phase in the business evolution of Alibaba’s founder.