Healthy and nutritious diets are out of reach for three billion people, according to the FAO. And yet access to nutrients is our first defense against diseases and our source of energy for our daily activities. What if next time you are thirsty, instead of grabbing a sugar-laden can of soda, you could just as quickly, easily and affordably access a fresh, delicious and healthy drink with the press of a button – all while supporting local, organic farmers?

Meet Rambler, our TFF Finalist from Thailand who are on a mission to make healthy and nutritious beverages accessible to everyone! Rambler is currently designing and manufacturing an automated vending machine to sell fresh, seasonal, and organic smoothies to consumers across Thailand, and eventually throughout the SE Asia region. All the produce they use for their nutritious GreenSmooth smoothies will be sourced locally from organic farmers – with circularity built in at every step.

People’s everyday drink!

It all started with a shared interest in addressing food security and making healthy lifestyles available to all! Steanpong Suksakorn from KMUTT and Tanyaporn Kamwasri from Kasetsart University joined Suchat Niha, Apitha Thanin, Nipitpon Tongpun, and Korakoch Rienmek from Thammasat University met while studying Global Studies and Social Entrepreneurship in 2019. At the time, Nipitpon also ran an organic farm and was faced with the hardship of being a farmer and the struggle of selling his produce. At the same time, he noticed how people in the city didn’t have access to fresh, healthy foods. In this challenge, he only saw an opportunity – and so he brought his friends together to launch Rambler in 2020.

The friends united behind the mission of creating a fair and profitable opportunity for Thai farmers by making fruits and vegetables more accessible in urban areas. Supported by a nutritionist, the team started to transform unpopular, highly nutritious produce from local farmers such as the Madan (Garcinia schomburgkiana) into delicious beverages that they could serve to customers during the pandemic.

Pre-lockdown, Rambler connected to 20 farms in Thailand to help them sell their organic produce in local markets. But it didn’t go perfectly – the team faced logistical challenges around how to procure and store the produce, without it going to waste. They quickly pivoted to develop the smoothie concept – and to date, Rambler has sold over 1,000 smoothies direct to consumers through pop-up storefronts and a door-to-door sales pipeline that they acquired through social media and referrals from friends.

Scaling was next – and this team of product designers set their sights on conquering the fast-growing vending machine market.

Say farewell to the unhealthy, stale fare of yesterday’s vending machines!

The WHO recommends that adults consume around 400g of fruits and vegetables each day. However, the average Thai person generally consumes less than 250g of greens daily, started Renu Garg, Medical Officer for the World Health Organization during an intervention at the United Nations’ Food Systems Pre-Summit Dialogue 2021.

Rambler wants to change these hopeless statistics! The team is developing a cutting-edge, “vending machine of the future” concept that will give city dwellers the opportunity to purchase tasty, nutritious, and fresh beverages quickly and in the most convenient way. In addition to serving and storing the smoothies, the vending machine will be equipped with IoT systems to control and manage the system, stock monitoring, and capture data to analyze customer behavior and product trends.

The global market for smart vending machines is estimated to be worth $720 million, and is expected to reach $1.4 billion by 2024, according to a report by Industry Research Co. Several startups are emerging in this space, mainly in Europe and the USA, and have raised more than $500K each. In Thailand, buying food and drinks from vending machines is also not uncommon – the country already has more than 25,000 machines scattered around. Thai people are familiar with buying products at vending machines, and are using them more because of the pandemic, social distancing and the new normal lifestyle.

Who hasn’t bought food from a vending machine? It is a convenient way to get food 24/7 in public spaces such as hospitals, schools, train stations, and inner cities. In some cities, people even depend on vending machines and kiosks to provide food. In food deserts (e.g. geographic areas where there is almost no access to affordable and healthy food options), vending machines could just be the answer. Today, fully health-driven vending machines and kiosks are a big trend and Rambler is here to conquer the market with its nutritious beverages sold in a vending machine with high hygiene standards.

The fresh-blend “GreenSmooth”

Consumers want healthy organic drinks, while farmers struggle to find an entry into the market. The “GreenSmooth” beverages use local and organic fruit and vegetables to connect organic farmers with urban consumers. But the young Rambler team is going beyond just selling smoothies and is showing what many TFFers and young entrepreneurs do: they are creating a product that is circular! The leftovers of the blended fruit and vegetables are returned to the farmers to be used as organic compost. Additionally, the Thai startup uses fiber-based cutlery and cups and avoids plastic to pack its locally-inspired smoothies.

“We are working on changing the consumers’ mindset around vending machines. We want to make sure that our customers can find fresh ingredients, delicious and nutritious beverages, made with the highest hygiene standards, in our vending machine”, – Suchat says.

What’s next?

TFF is working with Rambler to deploy the first prototype of their vending machine. Their first pilot is with high school students in partnership with Plearnpattana School in Bangkok. Currently, the team is creating the machine in partnership with The King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi – KMUTT.

Rambler is also taking part in the Food System Game Changers Lab as part of “Cohort 19: Enabling Affordable & Accessible Nutrition.” The Food Systems Game Changes Lab is a program run by EAT, IDEO, Thought For Food, The Rockefeller Foundation, and Forum For the Future in support of the UN Food Systems Summit.

“Our second cohort meeting surprised us! We found out that other startups are building vending machines and now we are connected to them to share information and experiences. It is great to get to know people around the world who have the same passion about food security” – Nipiton says

If you want to find out more about Rambler, partner with them, or meet the team, please reach out to marie@thoughtforfood.org.

Hear them pitch at the TFF Summit!

LIVE on October 2nd