San Francisco based leCupboard's vending machines offer plant-based snacks and entrees, and will soon pop up in public spaces. CNBC stopped by LeCupboard's cafe to sample some of the machines' offerings.
The vending machines, which the company calls "mobile cupboards," offer entrees and snacks featuring the company's own proprietary grain, which has no sugar.
Unlike a traditional vending machine, however, the options aren't shown in a transparent case, so consumers have to give the machine a bit of information before it generates an order.
"If you're a pregnant woman and need more iron and you happen to not like cinnamon and you feel like you have a special report for work this afternoon, we take that information and curate a menu and give you three or four choices of things you can eat," said Lamiaa Bounahmidi, CEO of leCupboard's parent company, Looly, which has raised $2 million thus far in funding.
"The goal is to feel satisfied from the mental perspective and feel like you had a nutritionist and chef working for you," she added.
There are currently about ten locations around San Francisco. For now, the mobile cupboards are stationed mainly in offices and partner locations. However, in the coming months the company is hoping to expand to thirty additional machines in public spaces.
The containers are made of glass. In a pseudo-subscription model, consumers pay a markup to receive the items in glass jars and dishes. This money is more of a deposit, as it transfers back to the consumer when they return the glassware.
For now, users can either order via app, which lets the machine get to know their specific restrictions: This includes anything from foods that control low blood sugar to a nut allergy. It also keeps the experience more private, for those that don't want to share their medical restrictions with others. Other consumers can simply stop by the machine and input their restrictions on the spot.
The biggest obstacles to making healthy decisions. according to Bounahmidi, are a knowledge about nutrition, being able to cook the food properly and accessibility without steep retail markups. After all that, the food still needs to taste good on top of it, especially with the stigma against healthy food being less tasty than regular food.
"From a psychological perspective, whenever you have someone on a diet, they kind of isolate themselves," said Bounahmidi. For instance, a diabetic or someone curbing calories might not enjoy public eating as much as people who face fewer restrictions.