Entrepreneur

This UPM Grad Used RM1 Mil To Develop A Vending Machine That Blends Smoothies On The Spot

Jess Lin was on a mission: she was on a strict dietary plan, but found her options lacking.

Not having enough time to whip up a new meal and refusing to compromise her diet plan, the idea of having a smoothie vending machine flashed into her mind.

A quick research confirmed there were no such available services and it spurred her to invent her own.

Fitgo Smoothie is the first of its kind to enter the Malaysian market, where fresh smoothies are easily accessible through a vending machine that prepares and mixes smoothies on the spot.

Developed under Nuvend Sdn Bhd—where Jess Lin holds the roles of founder and director—the concept of Fitgo is to serve fresh smoothies made and prepared in a vending machine for customer convenience. Once a customer places their order, the smoothie is blended and its preparation is complete within a minute.

The fruits and vegetables are frozen to ensure optimum freshness, and auto self-cleaning is enabled after each blend. Furthermore, the machine is operational 24-hours a day and visual information is available on the 10-inch screen for customers to double check or change their order.

Image Credit: Fitgo Smoothie

The smoothies can be gotten in a few simple steps. First, you purchase the frozen cup from the freezer and remove the lid before placing it on the cup holder. The machine will blend your smoothie on the spot.

There are currently 7 varieties for customers to choose from and each has their own range of ingredients and nutrients.

Reviews on their Facebook page so far have been mostly positive, with customers praising the freshness and unique taste of each mix. Priced at RM10 per cup, the protein-yogurt cubes that are blended along with the fruits are what the team calls their key ingredient.

Many of the users seem to prefer having the smoothies post-workout, and college students often substitute Proyo smoothies as their lunch if they need to rush to a class or group meeting.

One main complaint we noticed online is about the lack of available options to further customise their order, such as not being able to request a refund once an order is cancelled. Several added that the vending machines tended to be low on change, which was a hassle.

The team is quite active on social media, replying to many of the complaints that they are in the midst of R&D in order to address these issues.

Image Credit: Fitgo Smoothie

The Juicy Details Of Their Beginnings

Jess Lin started Nuvend with over a decade of experience as a Biz-Dev Manager in the health food industry, with a degree in Food Technology from UPM.

The developments on the vending machine started in May 2015, where the first prototype was born eight months later. They completed R&D on the project and officially launched in 6 different locations on May 15th 2017.

Despite her experience and their growth so far, not all their journey has been easy. According to Jess Lin, the company faced the biggest challenge in creating awareness of the vending culture. Because Malaysians are so used to having things delivered to them, vending machines are often forgotten and unused.

“The startup investment cost me about RM1 million. It mostly came from my own savings and funds from investors,” said Jess Lin.

“Our main revenue didn’t come from smoothie sales, but from the licensing of machines to other countries such as the UK, US, Australia, Singapore and more. They are eagerly awaiting our newest version and we plan to export to them once we upgrade to a better version to meet their standards,” she added.

When Fitgo launched their first machine in March 2017, there were also many unknown costs because the project was still in its initial stage.

In order to manage their profit and costs separately, they are implementing marketing strategies to diversify the distribution channel of Fitgo smoothies to other food platforms in order reach a wider market. This includes launching a home-delivery service and providing mini self-serve smoothies targeted for events, offices, convenient stores, and cafes.

Jess Lin also shared that they have been approached by many parties to collaborate, despite operating for only 2 years. However, their main focus right now lies in improving a fully-automated vending machine at the press of a button and increasing the distribution channels for Fitgo smoothies.

When asked about Nuvend’s upcoming plans, Jess elaborated:

“In the future, Nuvend will be introducing a pizza vending machine as our second product. There will continue to be many developments following our vending machine and we will work hard to develop tasty new recipes to meet customer expectations and promote a nutritious diet to build a healthy society.”

Feature Image Credit: Fitgo Smoothie

 

 

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