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Company Bets Robotic Vending Machine Pizza Is A Winner

We eat a lot of pizza in this country: 46 slices, or 23 pounds, of pizza a year per person, according to PizzaMarketplace.com. Some would say all the cheese on all that pizza is one reason we've got an obesity problem.

But the pizza industry, which nets $32 billion a year, thinks we could be eating even more. Sure, we've got classic pizzerias, home delivery, frozen pizzas, pizzas ready to take home and bake, pizza food trucks. But there's got to be some other way to sell that winning combination of wheat dough, tomatoes, and cheese, right?

We can thank some Italians — yes, the prideful original pizza makers and the people who invented Slow Food — and their Dutch partners for the newest addition to the pizza landscape: A superfast pizza-from-scratch vending machine. The company, A1 Concepts, says it's now shipping machines to Atlanta, the city it's betting will be its best entry point into the mammoth American pizza market.

Let's Pizza, as the machine is called, has been a hit in Europe, A1 CEO Ronald Rammers tells PizzaMarketplace.com. "Once people discover the quality of the pizza and the convenience and, indeed, the speed factor, we expect to have competition in our favor," he says.

Speed his vending machine does promise — 2.5 minutes for the machine to mix and knead the dough, squirt some tomato sauce on it, cover it with cheese and other toppings, and pop it in an infrared oven, which scorches it in a minute or so. Get a closer look in this video:

But getting pizza from a robot machine is a far cry from watching real live pizza makers who take pride in careful kneading and daring tosses of the dough. This pizza is made by robotic hands kneading and squirting and pulling the finished pizza from the oven.

As The Atlantic Cities noted in their post on the machine, it's a little odd that it's being marketed as "untouched by human hands" and prepared in a "human-free environment."

But for the price — $5.95 for an 11-inch pizza is what the company suggests — it may be just the thing for people who want a quick, hot snack and don't want to interact with anyone to get it. And if the buzz rippling off the cupcake ATM and sushi bots is any indicator, Americans will happily eat pizza from a machine, too — as long as it tastes something like their beloved pizza.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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