Vending is really going to come into the UK in a big way!

Cold snacks: Vending machines traditionally serve snacks and drinks but could soon be serving full dinners if UK follows the likes of Japan and US

When we feed coins into a vending machine, we expect little more than a soggy sandwich or tired chocolate bar in return.

But imagine if it could serve up a plate of steaming lasagne, a glass of freshly squeezed fruit juice or a gourmet salad made that very morning.Such an appetising idea could soon be a reality, according to Dr Morgaine Gaye, whose job as a food futurologist entails looking at how eating trends develop.

In countries such as Japan and the US, buying freshly made hot and cold food from vending machines is already part of everyday life – and Dr Gaye insists the UK will soon follow suit.

She said we are moving away from three meals a day towards snacking more and eating on the go, which will increase demand for vending machines and change what we want to be able to buy from them. ‘We are going to start seeing hot-snack vending being much more available,’ she said.

‘There are some brilliant ideas around the world. Vending is really going to come into the UK in a big way.’

Farmer Pete Grewar has already set up a vegetable vending machine at a shopping centre in Dundee, selling bags of potatoes for £3 and trays of groceries for £5. The world leader in vending machines is Japan, where you can get everything from hot noodles to pancakes. Dr Gaye said exciting ideas are also coming out of the United States.

A company in Chicago, Farmer’s Fridge, creates fresh salads, wraps and snacks, which are put in vending machines around the city at 5am every day.

A vending machine in Los Angeles serves up fresh cold fruit juice at any time of the day or night, and a store a few doors away sells cupcakes, including gluten free ones, from a hole in the wall.

The future? Experts believe the UK will soon have vending machines serving up fresh salads and other meal

The Healthy Vending company, which has 2,000 devices around the US, offers nutritious snacks such as fruit and granola bars and hot meals including curry and lasagne.

At the other end of the nutrition scale, a chain called FEBO in Holland has vending machines selling chips, deep-fried cheese, burgers and other fast food around the clock.

Dr Gaye, who lectures at Nottingham Trent University, said although vending machines rarely offer ‘something wonderful’ at the moment, ‘a whole world of new possibilities’ is about to open up.