October 19, 2022
TOKYO — Customers are lining up in front of a vending machine installed by a confectionery shop in Matsue to buy up the bakery’s unsold cakes.
Customers select cakes that are already boxed, so they cannot see what kind they are purchasing. The idea of selling the shop’s unsold cakes this way has not only cut back on food loss but also encouraged a work-style reform.
The machine was already set up near the entrance of Matsue Claude to sell cookies and other baked goods. However, on Aug. 15, the shop started selling fresh cakes — each of which costs about ¥500 for two slices — only on days when there were cakes left unsold.
The shop started referring to the selling method as “SDGs gacha for imperfect cakes,” which is named after the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “Gacha” comes from the gachapon vending machines that dispense toys in capsules. Customers do not know what they have bought until they open it.
As dozens lined up in front of the machine, some customers said they were delighted by the bargain or excited by the mystery of it. It is uncommon to be able to purchase fresh cakes from a vending machine, but it has grown in popularity, and the shop no longer has to throw away unsold cakes.
“I was happy to find a cheesecake I wanted inside the box,” said a 42-year-old woman, who stood in line with her junior high school-aged daughter for almost 20 minutes. “Not only is it inexpensive, it’s also delicious. It makes me want to line up again.”
Since April, Matsue Claude has been closing an hour earlier at 6 p.m. and increased the number of days the shop is closed from four days a month to nine. Initially, the bakery was worried that more closed days would lead to a loss of customers, but the vending machine has helped attract customers to maintain its overall sales.
“With more days off, our employees are more motivated to work,” said the shop’s managing director Risa Ishikawa, 46. “I’m grateful to know that we are supported by the community.”