CHICAGO -- The National Automatic Merchandising Association's first-ever OneShow shone the spotlight on an industry abuzz with innovation. Combining NAMA's long-running national and spring expositions into a single annual event, the action-packed convention and trade show was held from April 28 to 30 at the new McCormick Place West Hall in this lakeside metropolis.
In his welcoming address, NAMA president and chief executive Richard M. Geerdes emphasized the association's commitment to advancing the industry on many fronts. He announced that, as the latest step in this ongoing campaign, the association is introducing a cashless payment program that will become available to members beginning June 1. Through an exclusive partnership with Bank of America, NAMA has negotiated favorable rates for wireless communications and processing of cashless transactions.
Geerdes explained that the program is hardware-neutral and open to any PCI-compliant gateway provider. It covers all major credit card brands and is supported by a dedicated toll-free number. Details of the program will be announced in the coming weeks.
ONESHOW FLOOR AND STAGE
In the exhibit area, cutting-edge venders and coffee brewers, cashless solutions and digital signage were among the many attractions on display that drew scores of showgoers eager to build their businesses by embracing the industry's latest technology.
Highlighting the role of invention in the industry's future, the vending association recognized exhibitors whose products and services are moving the industry forward with the presentation of its first-ever Innovation Awards. They were bestowed in six categories. Honored for product innovation was Inko's White Tea (Englewood, NJ) for its ready-to-drink white tea beverages.
Winning for creativity in energy efficiency and sustainability was Elstat Americas (Marietta, GA), which produces "intelligent" thermostats to maximize efficient use of power in a wide variety of refrigerated appliances, including vending machines. MB Media Brokers (Phoenix), in the equipment machinery/technology category, was recognized for its novel LED-matrix electronic sign, which is sized to fit across the base of a glassfront machine's display front for high visibility.
Sharing the honors for advancing the state of the art in technology-related equipment were Cantaloupe Systems (San Francisco), developer of the popular Seed telemetry system for vending equipment; LightSpeed Automation (Alpharetta, GA), which manufactures a computer-controlled light-guided product picking application for warehouses; cashless micropayment pioneer USA Technologies (Malvern, PA) for its low-cost, turnkey Edge vending payment solution; full-line vending machine manufacturer U-Select-It (Des Moines, IA) for an Advanced Ergonomics snack vender breakthrough; and Vendors Exchange International (Cleveland) for its Mind retrofittable touchscreen display, which can give consumers easy access to vendible product nutrition labels.
Winning the top spot among coffee and water equipment manufacturers was de Jong Duke (Taylor, MI) for its new Virtu single-cup system with touchscreen interface. Vendture (Temecula, CA) was selected a winner in vending machine innovation for its development and introduction of the Vend it Hot hold/heat/serve vender.
Emceeing NAMA's annual industry awards ceremony, conducted at the Center Stage on the exhibit floor, was sports legend Mike Ditka, former head coach of the Chicago Bears. He recognized five industry leaders for exceptional service to the industry and the community.
Honored as Industry Person of the Year was Ben Ginsberg, a founder of American Automatic Merchandiser and publisher of Vending & OCS, who retired late last year after more than 50 years in publishing.
Ditka presented Greg Carron of Rainbow Vending (San Diego, CA) with the Vending Operator of the Year award, and Vistar's Doug Gille the Allied Member of the Year honor.
Leo Fante of Consumers Choice Coffee (Louisville, KY) was recognized as Coffee Operator of the Year and Coffee Allied Member of the Year honors went to Sid Lindholm of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (Palestine, TX).
PHOTO: At left, outgoing NAMA board chairman Craig Hesch (left), A.H. Management Group (Rolling Meadows, IL), and former Chicago Bears head coach Mike Ditka (right) present Industry Person of the Year Award to trade magazine pioneer Ben Ginsberg. The association also lauded vending educator James Clark of Edison Fareira High School (Philadelphia), who proposed and implemented the very successful vending technicians’ training course that he teaches at that institution. At right, from right are David Ortiz, MEI (West Chester, PA), a graduate of the program; Jim Clark; Bud Burke, Mackenzie Coffee & Vending (Allentown, PA); and NAMA president and chief executive Richard M. Geerdes. Burke and Ortiz serve on the Edison Fareira program’s industry advisory committee.
Separately, the vending association honored Jim Clark for his two decades of service in the vending industry through his organizing and teaching the vending repair program at Edison Fareira High School in Philadelphia. Clark began his career as a route driver, then applied that experience to education. With 50 graduates, the Edison Fareira vocational program has given students the opportunity to pursue vending industry careers, thereby providing the trade with well-trained employees.
The center stage on which the annual industry awards were presented also served as the focal point for the exhibit, graced by a succession of entertainment events including performances by the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, the Chicago Children's Choir and a champion Irish step dancing troop.
World-class speakers delivered daily keynote addresses to theme the education program. Opening the show to a packed audience was Herman Cain, former chief executive of Godfather's Pizza. In a speech titled "Leadership is Common Sense," he emphasized the importance of managers' removing obstacles to employees' success, guiding the behavior required to achieve desired results and inspiring extraordinary achievement in others.
Veteran television newscaster Ted Koppel, acclaimed for his 43-year broadcasting career at ABC News and his long service as anchor of the network's iconic Nightline news program, keyed the second day of the convention. He discussed "Dangerous Times, Dangerous World," providing keen insights into current events -- ranging from taxes and terrorism to education and media bias -- and how they are affecting the nation and will likely impact its future. Koppel invited audience members to suggest topics, which he then discussed in his characteristic well-informed and witty style.
On the closing day of OneShow, NFL Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw, revered for his achievements as quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers, shared his strategies for achieving success through continual self-improvement and self-criticism in a motivational presentation entitled "Why Not Your Best?"
The broad spectrum of education sessions, examining trends affecting the vending industry and ways to leverage them to best advantage, included "Social Shock: Growing Your Business and Empowering Your Workforce Using the Social Web," presented by Michael Atkinson of FohBoh.com, an online social networking site for restaurant industry professionals (FohBoh signifies "front of house" and "back of house"). He outlined how the vending trade can harness the power of social networks as a tool to create new business models, discover brand influencers, empower employees to maximize productivity, and manage their online reputations.
Dr. Michael Kasavana, NAMA Endowed professor at Michigan State University, led a two-part discussion on "The Future of Vending Technology." Panelists for the first part, which dealt with recent developments, included F.K. Funderburke and John McHale, Sapient Systems/Sapient Nitro (Boston), the organization that designed Coca-Cola's new interactive touchscreen-front cold drink machine; David Levine, MB Media Brokers (Phoenix, AZ), developer of an inexpensive, highly visible remotely programmable scrolling LED display for glassfront snack machines; and Glen Butler, Crane Streamware (Norwood, MA), one of the original developers of Streamware's VendMax management information system.
The second part of Dr. Kasavana's technology seminar, a review of and progress report on NAMA's new Vending Data Interchange standard, featured panelists Chris Lilly, Best Vendors Management (Minneapolis, MN), chairman of the NAMA VDI Task Force; Gene Ostendorf, InOne Technology (Hunt Valley, MD); Mandeep Arora of Cantaloupe Systems (San Francisco) and Streamware's Butler. They brought the audience up to date on the completion of the first phase of the project and plans for the next steps. VDI is conceived as a tool for assuring that data communications systems from different suppliers can exchange information without the need for conversion.
Foodservice publishing veteran Jerry White moderated a discussion entitled "Foodservice: Benefiting Your Business" that included as panelists international foodservice and hospitality consultant Jerry McVety and Bill Balke, a sales executive with broadline foodservice distributor Gordon Food Service (Grand Rapids, MI). The discussion focused on how to start or expand a foodservice business and meet consumer demand, and on how coffee plays a key role in the business.
Steve Hyde of BrewTek (Land O' Lakes, FL) drew on his decades in coffee equipment sales in again emceeing the always-popular Coffee & Water Service Open Forum at OneShow. The session began with a spirited roundtable discussion durring which participants exchanged experiences and shared tactical insights on finding new business, promoting new products, selling more merchandise to key customers and penetrating the market for single-serve brewing systems.
The industry leaders who had led the roundtables formed a panel to share their perspectives on the critical topics elicited by the round-table idea exchange. They then opened the floor for further dialogue.
A panel discussion of "Guidelines to Cashless Vending," moderated by Dr. Michael Kasavana, explored the latest research into the factors -- location, demographics, price points -- that contribute to the success of vending machines equipped to take cashless payments. Panelists included Cantaloupe Systems' Anant Agrawal, Gregg Haslinger of InOne Technology, Bill Clark of Apriva Vend (Scottsdale, AZ) and USA Technologies' Mike Lawlor (Malvern, PA). They presented the results of field tests and database findings that help to define the cashless opportunity, and detailed the steps operators need to take to benefit from it by identifying the environments most likely to support it.
SUSTAINABLE FOOD SYSTEMS
NAMA also announced its partnership with Sustainable Food Systems (Wallingford, CT), and that company's John Turenne introduced a vending-specific "self assessment report card" at OneShow. It's available exclusively to association members.
In his introductory presentation, Turenne explained how the online tool allows operators to evaluate how they score in terms of environmentally and socially conscious practices, and then determine a sustainability plan.
Retail expert Paul Schlossberg of D/FW Consulting offered a preview of "The Vending Store of the Future" in a presentation illustrating his perspective on vending's loss of competitive strength in the battle for the immediate consumption market segment, and is at risk of becoming irrelevant, especially with younger consumers. The speaker suggested solutions to help operators compete effectively to retain present customers, win back those who now are going elsewhere, and encourage the younger generation to become vending patrons.
Rounding out the educational programming was "The Food Environment Today and What's Ahead," led by NAMA senior vice-president of government affairs Ned Monroe and food industry consultant Sylvia Rowe of SR Strategy (Washington, DC). With food issues at the center of political, social and scientific debates that range from obesity through functional foods to sustainability, the speakers examined how the media have influenced public opinion about food and how government decisions are affecting the industry.
Next year's NAMA OneShow is scheduled to return to the Windy City April 27-29, 2011, at McCormick Place North.