Vending machines might be associated with fizzy drinks and chocolate bars but there is a growing body of small business owners using the technology in new ways.

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The appeal of an unmanned convenience store that uses contactless payment was obvious when the Covid pandemic began, as customers were trying to reduce face-to-face contact.

And in the last 12 months so-called automated micro markets grew by 367%, according to David Llewellyn, chief executive of the Vending and Automated Retail Association.

One of these business owners was Tomás Smyth who launched Mr Smyth's Milk Shack to sell his Wholey Cow brand of milk at the end of March 2020.

"For two months it was crazy, 80 to 90 people in a queue here every day," says Smyth, a dairy farmer in Ireland's County Louth.

And the options are expanding: you can now buy eyelashes from a vending machine (at Lash Loft in Newcastle) or perfume (from Russia's Perfumatic) and even prescriptions.