CHICAGO — Vending’s steady advance into the retailing mainstream was in the forefront at the National Automatic Merchandising Association’s OneShow, where interactive machines, innovative payment technologies, micromarkets and myriad products geared toward today’s health-minded consumers shined.
The 2014 OneShow, held at Chicago’s McCormick Place from April 9 to 11, boasted the largest exhibit to date in square footage, with 255 companies exhibiting, 52 for the first time. This was a slight increase over last year’s 250 exhibitors in Las Vegas.
Total attendance was 4,304, just short of the 4,617 registered showgoers at last year’s Las Vegas venue, which had the largest turnout to date. However, this year’s program was ahead of the 2012 show, also held in Chicago. A total of 1,426 operators representing 574 companies participated in this year’s OneShow.
Coca-Cola’s first-of-its-kind 100% solar-powered vending machine and PayRange’s Blukey mobile payments system that enables cashless sales in non-networked machines without wireless fees were among the many innovations drawing crowds on the bustling OneShow floor.
NAMA chairman Pete Tullio, Gourmet Coffee Service/World Wide Vending (Van Nuys, CA), hailed the industry’s progress and expressed his optimism for its bright future during his opening remarks at the OneShow opening general session.
“A few years ago, refreshment services were mired in stagnation, faced with economic challenges and a public focus on health and nutrition,” said Tullio. “The industry has been revitalized, and I believe we’re in a renaissance.”
He pointed to the unprecedented choice offered by micromarkets, among the many opportunities operators are embracing. “There are 5,000 today and 35,000 projected by 2017, and the excitement is infectious,” said Tullio.
The NAMA chair also cited a steady rise in cashless vending revenue and pronounced growth in the office coffee business. That growth is reflected in the increase of coffee, tea and water exhibits to 25% of the total, and year-over-year double-digit growth of NAMA’s Coffee, Tea & Water show. OCS revenues have grown for the third straight year, Tullio added, spurred by new technologies in single-cup brewing.
He credited the involvement and enthusiasm of young professionals joining the industry for driving its momentum. NAMA’s Emerging Leaders Network has grown in one year from a small networking group to 100 people, and its members played a big role in the vending association’s recent public policy conference in Washington, DC, Tullio said.
He turned the podium over to NAMA president and chief executive Carla Balakgie, who identified a societal focus on nutrition and wellness and relentless government intervention among the forces most profoundly impacting the industry and shaping its future.
Balakgie observed that the industry is moving to address these forces by diversifying, blurring traditional segments and investing in its business, creating what she calls a “durable advantage.”
“You have an opportunity to seek durable advantage, something you do that’s sustainable and that makes you more competitive,” she advised. It may be installing a micromarket, trying a 100% “healthy” machine in a hospital or health club or adding cashless capability, she instanced.
Employers strive to create employee-friendly offices as a competitive advantage, and operators are in the prime position to step up by creating meaningful and different food experiences, Balakgie emphasized.
The NAMA chief stressed that government at all levels, as well as advocacy groups, are seeking more accountability from the entire food and beverage industry on the nutrition and wellness front.
“There [is] a bevy of legislative threats and it’s not just a headwind; it’s a storm and it’s not going to abate,” Balakgie stated. “The expectation is that the food and beverage industry must respond with meaningful change that is self-initiated and self-led, with viable solutions.”
NAMA is doing its part, with a revamped Fit Pick program, which made its debut at the OneShow, its formation of a new nutrition and wellness center and advisory council and its endorsement of the American Beverage Association’s Calories Count program, building upon longstanding initiatives.
“We’re getting the message out so they see our industry as part of the solution and not the problem,” said Balakgie. “Consumers’ demands will change and we’ll have to meet them at least halfway as the designers of our destiny, not the victims.”
She emphasized that NAMA’s government affairs team is actively engaged with public policy leaders on the local, state and federal levels, advocating for the industry on key issues including nutrition, coin composition, food safety and reduction of lead in drinking water.
A wide-ranging OneShow educational program updated operators on the trends impacting their businesses and offered tools and strategies to position them for success in a fast-evolving industry.
Highlights included the unveiling of the rebranded and refreshed Fit Pick nutrition program, designed to address changing consumer preferences and evolving government nutrition standards by NAMA vice-president of marketing and communications Roni Moore and a panel of nutrition experts. | SEE STORY
Jim Brinton and Joseph Hessling, the chief executives of Avanti Markets and 365 Retail Markets, respectively, teamed up to share their insight as two of the largest suppliers of micromarket equipment. The self-checkout pros offered tips on establishing and growing a profitable micromarket business, from launching a market to techniques for minimizing theft and ways to harness technology to prevent spoilage and avoid Internet outages.
The fast-growing micromarket retail model was also the focus of a daylong session, prior to the formal opening of the OneShow, moderated by Brad Bachtelle of Bachtelle & Associates. A panel of packaged-goods experts from AdvancePierre, General Mills, Hershey’s, Kellogg’s and Vistar shared research into consumer behavior and consumption patterns, category management and other topics directly applicable to micromarkets.
NAMA senior vice-president of government affairs Eric Dell led a separate information session on the association’s work with health regulators from the local and federal levels relating to micromarkets, and the best practices operators should follow to ensure food safety and Food Code compliance in their self-checkout stores.
On the technology front, a panel of leading developers brought operators up to speed on the latest advances in digital and social media, cloud-based computing, alternate payment platforms, mobile transactions, consumer analytics, loyalty programs and telemetry software that are transforming the industry (see P. 26.).
Another session focused on near future developments planned for the vending, micromarket and office coffee service industries from the perspective of non-industry technology experts. A panel of executives from Intel, Cisco Consulting Services and Isis informed operators about the planned hardware, software and “netware” changes being created to advance the self-service marketplace.
Presenting a comprehensive overview of the complex legislative and regulatory landscape impacting the food and beverage industry at the federal, state and local levels was a panel moderated by NAMA’s Eric Dell that included government affairs officials from the National Confectioners Association, American Beverage Association, and American Bakers Association.
The government experts provided their perspectives on the reform of the sugar program at the federal level, proposals for candy and sugar-sweetened beverage taxes and restrictions, healthy food requirements and labeling issues at the state and local levels.
Dell offered an update on legislation related to calorie disclosure, coin and currency changes, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s school vending rules, state and local tax proposals, product bans and electronic payment systems issues.
Rounding out the OneShow educational program were sessions on timely topics. They ranged from how operators can drive sustainability through leveraging social media to build brands and meeting the expectations of millennials in the workplace.
The 2015 NAMA OneShow will be held in Las Vegas from April 22-24. Go to namaoneshow.org for up-to-date details.
PHOTO | Keynote Headliners: Three-time Super Bowl champion and Football Hall of Famer Troy Aikman brought his star power to the OneShow opening session. He was joined on the stage by host Brad Sham, longtime radio voice of the Dallas Cowboys, who interviewed the NFL legend about his football career and the work ethic and leadership style that underlie his current roles as a sportscaster, entrepreneur and philanthropist. Keynoting NAMA’s annual meeting and industry awards ceremony was Lisa Bodell, founder and chief executive of Futurethink, a business innovation firm. Her message to showgoers was to embrace change, take a fresh look at what’s possible and inspire their organizations to take action.