Whether you forgot your lunch, got stuck at the office later than expected, or simply needed an afternoon sugar fix, we’ve all found ourselves slipping dollars into vending machines to score some less-than-healthy snacks.
So all hail the San Francisco-based startup Pantry, which is hoping to help you stay fed on the go, while also providing a healthier alternative to the candy bars and processed goods loitering in vending machines far and wide.
Today, the refrigerated food kiosk developer announced the close of a $1 million seed round, led by Cowboy Ventures, to support its “always fresh, always open” food service kiosk solution. This round also involved participation from existing investor Lemnos Labs, a hardware incubator with alumni including drone company Airware.
This latest capital raise brings Pantry’s total seed round to $2.3 million after it raised an earlier $1.3 million in August 2014 from Lemnos and eight over angel and VC investors.
The company was launched in 2012 by Art Tkachenko, Alex Yancher, and Tony Chen, who found themselves scrounging for healthy snacks while working late hours in office parks, which they describe as food deserts.
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“We’re in the midst of a fundamental shift in the way people eat, and it is our goal to provide everyone, from office employees to round-the-clock staff at hospitals, with fresh, healthy food options that get through their day or night,” wrote Pantry CEO Russ Cohn in a recent press release.
Partnering with local and regional food providers like Byte Foods, Mixt Greens, Aramark, and Sodexo, the company offers a variety of seasonal meals and snacks. So far, the brightly lit and ornately decorated kiosks have been located in hospitals, hotels, universities, and office buildings nationwide, with big names like Cisco Systems making room for Pantry stations in their workspaces.
The kiosks come backed with quite a bit of technology, too. The grab-and-go machines use Point of Sale (POS) technology with Radio Frequency ID (RFID) tracking and billing, which allows food vendors to move product even when their brick-and-mortar businesses are closed. The kiosks are web-enabled, making it easy for Pantry staff to check on sales and ensure the machines are restocked appropriately to prevent waste.
“Using Pantry with our Byte service, mid-size businesses are now able to offer fresh, healthy food in the office,” said Megan Mokri, CEO of Byte Foods, in a recent press release. “Pantry has been an invaluable partner that allows Byte to create an entirely new retail experience.”
Pantry isn’t the first of its kind. A Utah-based company called Fresh Healthy Vending offers a similar service and a wide variety of machines, with the most advanced model featuring an interactive touch-screen experience that can display everything from menu items to nutrition facts. Vend Natural also offers a line of snack and beverage machines, which accept debit and credit cards, designed to provide healthier fare than traditional vending machines.
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