Oysters in France are a big deal. Loved around the world for their unique taste, oysters can now be purchased around the clock from a vending machine. This is the story of an oyster breeder in Île de Ré.
Oyster tradition in France
The best oysters in France can be found in western Brittany, in the Mont-Saint Michel area on the border with Normandy. Crucial to the area’s marine ecosystem, these bi-valve molluscs are precious indicators of the coastline’s environmental condition. They not only filter water but also play a key role in local French gastronomy, particularly coastal France. Oysters represent one of the area’s most representative signatures. Each oyster, in fact, acquires aromas and flavours that are defined by salinity and temperature of the water, the strength of marine currents and the nature of the sea bottom where they grow. The variety of molluscs is therefore vast and varies, and differs according to provenance. The one thing that they all have in common, and which is appreciated all over France, is their iodine-rich, salty taste.
The vending machine
It shouldn’t surprise then that the latest French invention has to do with oysters. Specifically, an automated vending machine that serves fresh quality oysters, and no sign of junk food and sodas snacks. Purchases can be made with credit cards only. And each customer can select among a wide range of various types, shapes and size of oysters through the glass display. The vending machine operates 24/7 and has already gathered public enthusiasm, “If we feel like oysters at midnight, we can come and buy them easily, it’s fantastic! The products are always all fresh”, commented Christel Petinon, one of the machine’s first customers visiting Île de Ré.The coastal resort town on western coast is the place elected by the inventor of the project, oyster breeder Tony Berthelot. He has been working in the oyster trade for three decades. He devised the vending machine to dispose of the entire catch on a daily basis. “We had the sensation of losing lots of sales in closing days and at night”, he explains, “and although the costs for the vending machine have been steep, we are already making a profit, covering expenses. Our calculations were therefore correct”. Will this brilliant idea catch on anywhere else?
by Michela Becchi
translated by Eleonora Baldwin