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What Country Has the Most Vending Machines per Capita in 2023?

You may be surprised to discover which country dominates the world of vending machines with the highest density of vending machines per capita.

September 18, 2023


Understanding the true scope of the vending machine industry on a global scale is a challenging endeavor. The industry is dominated by small business owners rather than large corporations, so judging the market based on vending owner income isn’t the most ideal way to accomplish this task. Instead, taking a long at the number of vending machines per capita in various countries and the exact number of vending machines is a better idea. Let’s dive right in.

Which Country Has the Most Vending Machines Per Capita in 2023?

The country with the highest number of vending machines per capita in 2023 is Japan. The country averages around one vending machine for every 25 to 30 people, which is truly representative of Japan’s convenience culture. For reference, the population of Japan is almost a third of the population of the United States, but the countries have a comparable number of vending machines.

Most Japanese vending machines can be found in big cities like Tokyo, and in these busy areas, there will be dozens of vending machines installed on nearly every block and most street corners. The overwhelming abundance of vending machines in Japan has become an integral part of Japanese culture, and anyone who has visited Japan will have learned that pretty quickly. Some may even be shocked with the bizzare things found in Japanese vending machines.

What Country Has the Most Vending Machines in Numbers in 2023?

When it comes to the total number of vending machines in a country, the USA rockets to the top of the list. The size of the American vending machine industry is estimated to be over 5 million, meaning the USA has the most vending machines when compared to any other country.

Many people believe that Japan actually has the most vending machines worldwide, and it is true that it falls into second place by less than a million machines. The high population density and highly visible placement of Japan vending machines make it appear as though the country has more vending machines than it actually does.

The USA is a large country and vending operators tend to place machines inside buildings rather than outdoors, meaning most of the industry is hidden away. However, when it comes to sheer numbers, the USA has the largest vending industry.

How Many Vending Operators Are There in the USA?

At the beginning of 2023, the vending industry in the USA was composed of 17, 148 vending machine business owners. Some of these vending operators may only have one machine, others may have several hundred vending machines.

With this enormous number of vending operators, the country is the perfect market for developing new technologies to elevate the industry. Plus, with so many vending machines owned by these operators (more than 5 billion!), every individual in the USA has easy access to soft drinks, healthy snacks, specialty retail store items like bike parts and makeup, and even hot food.

What Vending Machine Types Are Most Sold in Japan?

Japan vending machines are overwhelmingly beverage machines; with over 2.2 million varieties of beverage machines (including coffee machines, soda vending machines, etc.), this machine type is the most popular to Japanese population by a long shot.

The Japanese culture is fairly reliant on automated services, so it makes sense that automated machines are quite prevalent around the country. Automated vending machines number nearly 1.3 million and take the form of coin lockers, money changers, and more.

The rest of the market is as follows: roughly 200,000 japanese vending machines sell products under the daily necessity category, approximately 92,000 machines sell cigarettes, only 77,000 machines carry chips and other vending machine food items (including even hot meals), and around 63,000 vending machines provide tickets of some kind.

How Many Vending Machines Are There in China?

Data regarding the vending machine industry in China is a bit harder to come by, but this country is no exception to the upwards trend of the industry on a global level. As of 2021, there were approximately 300,000 vending machines located throughout China. While these numbers don’t compare to the millions seen in other countries, the market has tripled in size since 2017, and this growth is projected to continue.

Why Are Vending Machines in Japan So Popular?

Japanese people have better access to vending machines than any other population in the world, and while many of them are located in predictable locations (in train stations, near local attractions, etc.), more vending machines can be found outdoors on city streets than inside offices and housing complexes.

It’s no secret that vending machines are more popular in Japan than anywhere else; otherwise, they wouldn’t have the highest number of machines per capita. Although the market has suffered as a result of convenience stores, a vending business is still an incredibly popular choice for owners and consumers alike to buy soft drinks, snacks, and all sorts of other products.

Benefits for Owners

The steps required to start a vending business in Japan offer one major advantage over American startups: in many cases, a permit is NOT required to install and operate a vending machine. Of course, there are exceptions to this freedom (selling milk, liquor, etc.), but in general, it is incredibly straightforward to start a vending machine business in Japan with traditional beverage machine and other rental machines. This is only one of the reasons why they are so popular for vending owners, though.

Restrictions on vending machine placement are also much more relaxed in Japan than other countries. Vending owners have the freedom to setup their machine in front of their home or business (small restaurants or shops, for example), avoiding the hassle of negotiating a spot in busy locations like malls or in-demand sites like office buildings. The convenience of this is undeniable.

Another reason why vending machines are such a popular business venture is the incredibly low crime rate in Japan. As one of the top 10 safest countries in the world, vending owners in Japan really don’t have to worry about petty crime affecting their business at all. Overall, it is a sound investment with limited risks.

Benefits for Consumers

Of course, Japan's vending machines could not succeed unless they were also popular with consumers. The extreme convenience of self-serve machines is highly valued by Japan’s citizens, and the boost to contactless retail from the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the industry to innovate and become even more valuable to the consumer.

Which Market is the Most Innovative in Terms of Vending Machine Business?

While throughout the history England has held the innovator's crown, the rule has ben passed over to Japan.

Innovation in the vending industry has only grown more necessary over the last few years. The coronavirus pandemic pushed every industry to create contactless systems to serve consumers, and the vending world was not left out of the push to do better. The Japanese vending market is proving to be the most innovative of all when it comes to vending machine businesses.

One of the best things about the Japanese vending industry is the payment system diversity. While Japan's vending machines can operate on traditional card readers or coin/cash systems, many vending machines are also able to accept payment from commuter passes. This means a Japanese citizen can simply swipe their commuter card for their train fare, bus fare, and all of their vending purchases. The benefit of this for busy commuters is unparalleled.

Japanese vending machines also excel in user-friendliness and efficiency with their coin payment systems. Rather than needing to count out coins manually, the vending machine will keep track of the amount you’ve inserted and will highlight the items that are now available for purchase. This speeds up the selection process and elevates the convenience of these machines even more.

The sophistication of the vending machines in Japan also beats out the technology in other countries. Full touchscreen displays, friendly messages, and even product recommendations are all features of Japanese vending machines.

Product selection in Japanese vending machines is also a standout feature of the market. Vending machines offering fresh produce, fish (even fresh flowers), and other grocery items can be found in random locations around the city to make shopping for essentials incredibly efficient.

There are many other interesting aspects of the Japanese vending industry; these are just a few of the highlights.

Final Thoughts

Although vending machines are prevalent on a global scale, two countries house the majority of the market: Japan and the USA each have one third of the global market within their borders. While Japan takes the lead for the most vending machines per capita and the most innovation, the USA houses the highest number of total machines. If you’re keen on getting a real taste of the vending industry, the best place to start would be one of those two countries.

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