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Summer 2013 Candy Land

A sweet self-service concept hits shopping centers.

Sweet Amanda’s, an interactive bulk candy dispenser, is changing the way self-service treat machines operate. Steven Bruck, cofounder and CEO, started Sweet Amanda’s with his brother, Robert, in 2009 after coming up with the idea for a fun and easy way for customers to get sweets.

“We have been in the vending machine industry for three generations and basically saw that the typical way to sell bulk candy, like gumball machines, had really become unsanitary, unpleasing to the eye and antiquated. The aesthetics really hadn’t changed in 100 years.”

The pair set out to create Sweet Amanda’s, a candy machine with touch-screen operation and conveyor belt technology that would make dispensing candy exciting. There are currently about 1,000 machines in the market at locations ranging from malls and movie theaters to college campuses and airports.

How it works

The Sweet Amanda’s machine has 16 clear tubes on the front of the machine filled with candy, along with six round capsules on the side of the machine holding novelties such as shirts, stuffed animals and cellphone cases. Customers use the machine’s touch screen to select what they want, add the item to their cart and check out, just like purchasing something online. Then the candy moves along a conveyor belt, which the customer can see through the window in the front of the machine. Finally, the candy is dispensed into a cup. Gift items in the side capsules fall down through a separate door.

This mechanism differs from competitor machines, which typically are gravity-fed and only sell unwrapped hard candies.
Cost varies depending on the location and demographics but averages around $2 for two ounces of candy. Sweet Amanda’s takes cash, credit and debit cards, unlike a traditional gumball machine requiring the customer to use change. If customers have a technical problem with the machine, they can scan a QR code from their mobile device and it takes them to a refund page. The customer then can enter a receipt number for a refund.


Mall appeal

Taking a look at the mall market, Bruck said Sweet Amanda’s draws attention with its wraparound graphics and commanding size. “It upgrades the look of the mall with bright colors and the features are fun; the machine’s lights are red and green at Christmas or orange at Halloween. We also turn on a blue light with a happy hour ‘buy one, get one free’ special during certain hours.”

Although the machine is large, it’s actually three modular pieces, and fits in a standard elevator. Sweet Amanda’s also offers a smaller model where it’s a half machine with eight candy bins and three capsule products. Currently the candy machines are all company owned, but Bruck said Sweet Amanda’s will eventually get to a franchise type model.

Ultimately, the interactive nature of the machine is what Sweet Amanda’s is hoping will attract new retailers and end customers. “Unlike inserting a quarter and turning it, they’re using a touch screen and choosing what they want. We find automated retailing is growing every day; it’s the way of the future and people like to do things themselves.”

For more information, please visit www.sweetamandas.com.

Kristin Larson Contino

Kristin Contino is a freelance writer and copy editor based in Philadelphia. She writes for a variety of print publications and blogs, and also covers women's fiction for examiner.com.

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