Crab vending machines for Chinese commuters
Commuters in China who are too busy to keep supermarket opening hours are being offered a nutritious alternative to the diet of crisps, chocolate and fizzy drinks usually dispensed from train station vending machines – live crabs.
The automatic crab dispensers have been installed at several underground stations in Nanjing, the capital of the southeastern province of Jiangsu, by an enterprising local company hoping to capitalise on the increasingly hectic lifestyles of urban Chinese.
The 'Dazha' hairy crabs, which are a popular regional delicacy along the Yangtze River delta cities of Nanjing, Hangzhou and Shanghai, are sold in three sizes – large, medium or small – and range in prices from about €1.70 to €5.70.
The crabs are packed into custom-fitted plastic boxes and chilled to 41F (5C) which is enough to sedate them but also keep them alive. A sign next to the machine offers three free crabs for anyone who is unlucky enough to get a dead one, the local 'Guangzhou Daily' newspaper reported.
"The customers were a bit sceptical at first as they were worried if the crabs were alive or not," Wu Zhendi, general manager of the Twin Lake Crab Co. told The Telegraph, "but now they see they are alive, they keep coming back. We are selling hundreds each day, and more at weekends."
The company, which claim on its website to supply crabs to dignitaries staying at China's Diaoyutai State Guesthouse outside Beijing, said it was now planning to expand the trials, possibly even as far as Japan where vending machines are used to sell everything from eggs to ice and umbrellas.