Oyster lovers rejoice! Oysters 24/7 from vending machines have arrived... in France

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Food and Beverage

Oyster lovers rejoice! Oysters 24/7 from vending machines have arrived... in France

Oysters are pictured on the Re Island, where an automatic oyster vending machine is set at l'huitriere de Re in Ars en Re, Southwestern France, August 2, 2017.
Regis Duvignau | Reuters

In a change from chocolates and fizzy drinks, the French are starting to offer fresh oysters from vending machines in the hope of selling more of the delicacy outside business hours.

One pioneer is Tony Berthelot, an oyster farmer whose automatic dispenser of live oysters on the Ile de Re island off France's western coast offers a range of quantities, types and sizes 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"We can come at midnight if we want, if we have a craving for oysters. It's excellent; they're really fresh," Christel Petinon, a 45-year-old client holidaying on the island, told Reuters.

The Ile de Re's refrigerated dispenser, one of the first and with glass panels so customers can see what they are buying, is broadly similar to those that offer snacks and drinks at railway stations and office buildings worldwide.

Customers use their bank card for access, opening the door of their choice from a range of carton sizes and oyster types.

Berthelot, thirty years an oyster breeder, sees it as an extra source of revenue rather than an alternative to normal points of sale like food markets, fishmongers and supermarkets.

"We felt as though we were losing lots of sales when we are closed," he said.

"There was a cost involved when buying this machine, of course, but we're paying it back in installments ... And today, in theory, we can say that the calculations are correct and it's working."

Selling oysters from a machine bets on more than just open-mindedness among consumers. Live molluscs not kept cool enough or stored too long out of seawater can cause food poisoning when opened.

The Berthelots say the machine has an appeal to a younger generation accustomed to buying on the internet and unperturbed by the absence of a shopkeeper.

Writing by Reuters' Brian Love; Editing by Andrew Callus and Alister Doyle

  • Oysters are pictured in the water on the Re Island, where they are sold via an automatic oyster vending machine.

    Oysters are pictured in the water on the Re Island, where an automatic oyster vending machine is set at l'huitriere de Re in Ars en Re, France.
    Regis Duvignau | Reuters
  • Oyster farmer Tony Berthelot collects oysters.

    Berthelot collects oysters for the vending machine.
    Regis Duvignau | Reuters
  • French oyster farmers are following in the footsteps of other producers of fresh food who once manned stalls along roadsides for long hours but now use machines.

    Berthelot arrives with oysters. French oyster farmers are following in the footsteps of other producers of fresh food who once manned stalls along roadsides for long hours but now uses machines.
    Regis Duvignau | Reuters
  • A worker prepares oysters for the vending machine. 

    A worker prepares oysters for the automatic oyster vending machine.
    Regis Duvignau | Reuters
  • Berthelot installs oysters into the automatic vending machine.

    Berthelot installs oysters in an automatic oyster vending machine.
    Regis Duvignau | Reuters
  • Automatic oyster vending machine is pictured at L'Huitriere de Re, in Ars en Re.

    Automatic oyster vending machine is pictured at L'Huitriere de Re, in Ars en Re on the Re Island.
    Regis Duvignau | Reuters
  • Customers leave with oysters from the vending machine. 

    Fresh oysters on display.

    Customers leave with oysters from the vending machine.
    Regis Duvignau | Reuters
  • Oysters are pictured on Re Island.
    Regis Duvignau | Reuters