A new study finds mobile vending systems are more common in the United States than they were a decade ago, with more than 2.5 million machines sold in the last three years.
The survey, conducted by Consumer Reports and commissioned by the American Public Transportation Association, found the number of mobile vending units is up nearly 4 percent from 2014, and more than double the amount of machines sold just a decade earlier.
It’s a trend that’s been underway since the mid-2000s, with the number doubling from nearly 7.3 million units in 2000 to over 11.7 million in 2020.
But there’s been some debate over how often vending machines are actually used.
In the latest survey, the majority of mobile systems — 70 percent — are used for vending at restaurants and bars, with just 12 percent being used for grocery shopping.
About 3.4 million of the machines were used for food service during that time, and another 7.5 percent were used to sell alcohol.
In addition, a small percentage of vending machines were in the hands of those with disabilities.
About 9.5% of mobile machines were owned by people with disabilities, according to the study.
The numbers may have increased slightly since that time because more companies have opened their mobile vending programs to the public, and some have begun to accept credit cards as payment.
Consumers should check out the report, called The Future of Mobile Vending Machines, which is available for download here.
The study also found that mobile vending has become an integral part of the food service industry in the past decade.
In fact, there were nearly 4 million mobile vending stations in 2020, compared to just over 1.2 million in 2014, according the study’s data.
Consumers also should consider the new technology in the home.
Nearly 4 in 10 households now have a mobile vending system, according a 2015 study from Consumer Reports.
That study found that the average home has one mobile vending unit, with nearly half of households having one.
The vast majority of home vending machines — 74 percent — have mobile devices, while just 6 percent are electric.
The majority of electric home vending devices — 73 percent — use an app.
However, the number is rising steadily with the addition of electric lighting and outlets.
Consumers can also check out this report from the Transportation Research Board, which has a good overview of the trends in the mobile vending market.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.