This year has already seen a surprising number of innovations in vending machines, from the EatWave that cooks select items to the Let's Pizza which actually makes fresh pizza from scratch. Now one company has produced a vending machine designed for more discerning (and wealthy) palates. Gourmet food supplier, Beverly Hills Caviar, recently installed vending machines in select Los Angeles malls that serve up fresh caviar, escargot, and other exotic goods, with prices for products running as high as US$500.

For a business that delivers luxury cuisine worldwide and just operates one by-appointment-only specialty store, adopting a vending machine to distribute expensive food inside a mall seems like a bizarre decision. The company sees the machines as a way to make its products more accessible to its usual clients as well as the general public.

The machines are stocked with over 24 varieties of caviar from around the world, which range from the $30/oz American Black Caviar to the Imperial River Beluga, which costs a whopping $500 per ounce. Customers can also choose from a range of other gourmet foods and cooking ingredients, such as escargot, black truffles, white truffle oil, blinis, bottarga, and premium salts. There's even a vegan type of caviar comprised of seaweed and a red salmon caviar made just for dogs and cats. And since eating fine caviar with a plastic fork from the nearby food court would, apparently, be in poor taste, the machine sells mother of pearl spoons and dishes as well.

Providing fresh caviar from a machine is no simple task, though, which is why Beverly Hills Caviar hired several engineers to produce the vending machines and then patented the technology. Almost all aspects of the internal environment, including temperature, lighting, moisture, and oxygen levels, are all carefully monitored. Each perishable item comes chilled in an insulated box, which gives shoppers a three hour window from purchasing their food to either eat or refrigerate.

Security is also a much larger concern compared to most other vending machines as well, since each machine holds about $50,000 worth of products when fully stocked. The company understandably keeps most security features a secret, though it has noted that the case is built like a safe and at least three cameras document everyone who approaches it.

It may be unusual to offer pricey gourmet food through a vending machine of all things, but it could be a greater convenience for customers who need to pick up some hard-to-find items quickly. If anything, the new machines are at least a prominent marketing tool. They will definitely raise a few eyebrows but that could potentially translate into some new patrons in the process.

If you're in the Los Angeles area and want to check one out for yourself, the Beverly Hills Caviar vending machines are located at the Topanga Westfield Mall, Century City Mall, and Burbank Town Center.

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