LAS VEGAS -- Game-changing innovations in vending and coffee service drew the biggest crowd yet to a NAMA OneShow and generated a buzz over new prospects for industry growth.
It was the first time the annual show, which ran from April 25 to 27 at the Venetian/Sands Resort in Las Vegas, was held outside Chicago. Continuing a growth trend, the number of registered participants climbed to approximately 4,500 over last year's 4,100; the 2011 confab drew 11% more showgoers than the first OneShow in 2010.
This year's OneShow hosted 227 exhibitors, occupying 62,000 square feet of floor space, compared with 220 exhibitors and 56,000 square feet last year. On display were the latest high-tech advances in vending and micromarkets, from mobile payment options and interactive touchscreen displays to enhanced remote monitoring technology and route management tools. A wide range of new products made their debut at the show, many of which reflected the growing health focus of today's consumers, from vendible salads and single-serve vegetables and dip, to rice bowls, gluten-free snacks and alternative beverages.
NAMA made a splash with young consumers and garnered wide media attention a day before OneShow opened by hosting a Gratitude Tour event at the University of Nevada's Las Vegas campus. More than 5,000 students turned out to interact with never-before-seen machines on the forefront of vending, including Crane Merchandising Systems' new high-tech Media platform, Kraft's Diji-Taste vender and Seattle's Best's single-cup fresh-brew coffee machine. Many new products were available for sampling in advance of the OneShow.
Kicking off the OneShow opening event on Wednesday, April 25 was the annual NAMA awards ceremony recognizing outstanding industry achievement. Presiding was NAMA chairman Brad Ellis of Crane Merchandising Systems. Craig Hesch of A.H. Management Group (Rolling Meadows, IL) took top honors as 2012 Industry Person of the Year. Dan Hart, chief executive of Southern Refreshment Services-Canteen (Tucker, GA), was named Vending Operator of the Year. Ken Shea, vice-president and director of field operations of The Standard Cos. Inc. (St. Charles, MO) holds the distinction of Coffee Service Operator of the Year.
Honored as Vending Allied Member of the Year was Brent Garson of Vendors Exchange International Inc. (Cleveland). Tim Wayne, director of sales for The J.M. Smucker Co. (Orrville OH), won NAMA's vote as Coffee Allied Member of the Year.
VENDING'S NEW FACE
NAMA's new president and chief executive Carla Balakgie made her inaugural address, outlining her vision for the association and the future of NAMA's new Industry Growth Strategy.
Balakgie, who joined NAMA in December from the Electronic Transactions Association, said her extensive payments background will benefit the industry as cashless vending is moving rapidly to the mainstream.
She informed a packed audience that she spent the first few months of 2012 on a "listening tour," traveling the country to visit with NAMA members in order to better understand their businesses. "My goal was to immerse myself in your industry and hear from operators, brokers, distributors and suppliers about your challenges and goals, and it really helped me get a pulse on what is happening," Balakgie said. "NAMA can only represent you well if we understand you and your needs."
NAMA's chief executive emphasized that technology is bringing exciting new possibilities to vending, from social media and loyalty applications to electronic promotions. "But there's a gap," she cautioned. "We must change the way we do what we do, which requires an investment of time and resources. But change we must, because the future will come whether or not we engage in it."
She said the association's Industry Growth Strategy launched a year ago remains a key priority moving forward. Its goal is to facilitate growth by revitalizing the image of vending and OCS in the eyes of the consumer. "Gratitude events like the one at UNLV showcase the industry well and help us tell our story," she said. She added that NAMA's Vend.Love.Win. Facebook campaign has gone a long way in engaging consumers to "fall in love with vending."
Balakgie equated the impressions generated by the image-building campaign and all of the positive press it's generated to the media impact of running six television Super Bowl advertisements.
"We've only just begun," Balakgie assured industry members. "Telling our story is a journey that never ends and we will continue to strive to position the industry for growth."
She announced that the NAMA board of directors has approved a plan to foster growth in the coffee, tea and water segment by facilitating industry, company and individual success. A major component will be market research to help operators in the segment better understand consumer preferences and develop target messages.
NAMA will also launch a National Coffee Week campaign that encourages consumers to get their coffee at work. Balakgie said the association will also continue to advance opportunities for operators in the industry segment at its fifth annual Coffee, Tea & Water Show, which will be held from Nov. 13 to 15 in New Orleans.
The NAMA chief identified government affairs as a "mission critical" undertaking for NAMA and assured operators that, from tax threats, through calorie-disclosure requirements expected to be finalized in June to changes in currency design, the association will continue to protect their interests at the state and federal levels.
"We are here to guide you to mitigate the impact of these laws on your business," Balakgie said. "NAMA will be recognized as a power that belongs at the table and directly engages officials to leverage our footprint, resources and voice."
She said the vending association will strengthen its relationships with other organizations -- including those in the payments industry -- that can be valuable partners to the vending business.
Finally, Balakgie announced the launch of NAMA's "Positioning for Growth" capital campaign to help fund the association's efforts to deliver its members and the industry new levels of support in the areas of industry advocacy, research and education.
A performance by the famous Blue Man Group, renowned for its imaginative fusion of music, comedy and multimedia effect followed Balakgie's address. NAMA estimated that 1,300 to 1,400 people packed the theater at the opening ceremony, its biggest turnout ever for such an event.
NAMA's annual membership meeting on Thursday, April 26, began with the presentation of the industry's annual iSpot Innovation Awards. Lead judge Paul Schlossberg of D/FW Consulting emceed a PowerPoint presentation highlighting the meritorious characteristics of each entry winning a Gold Innovation Award. This year's panel of judges divided the entries into three recognition categories: Gold, Silver and Bronze. Entries were judged based on features, benefits, creativity, image, productivity and profitability. | SEE STORY
NAMA chairman Brad Ellis, Crane Merchandising Systems, delivered his state-of-the-industry address. He emphasized that the number one imperative of the industry is growth, by winning more of the consumer's wallet and increasing same-store sales.
He pointed to a contemporary consumer vastly different from the vending patron of 20 years ago amid the shrinking blue-collar workforce. "Factory workers are no longer our primary customers. White-collar and Gen Y consumers make the vast majority of our clientele," he emphasized. "NAMA research shows they like vending, but they're looking for a different experience. They want cashless, but we're the only retail channel globally that doesn't accept credit and debit. They want convenience, variety and value."
Ellis also observed that the competitive landscape has evolved significantly as consumers have far more shopping choices, including convenience, drug and grocery stores. "Vending has the potential to be the ultimate in convenience in a society focused on immediate gratification," he emphasized. "One key advantage is that Gen Y loves to interact with machines; they prefer it over waiting in line. They love technology and convenience. You need to engage them and keep them engaged."
NAMA's Industry Growth Strategy has helped begin the transformation of the way vending is viewed by the public, Ellis said.
The co-chairs of NAMA's new Positioning for Growth campaign called on the association's members to lend their support. They are Jim Terry of Coca-Cola, a past chairman of the association; Howard Chapman of Royal Cup Coffee (Birmingham, AL), and NAMA's coffee committee chairman; and Mark Whitener of Refreshment Solutions (Norco, LA). The trio honored the companies joining them as the campaign's premier partners, who, collectively, have already donated $1.5 million in the six weeks since the campaign kicked off. Its goal is $5 million.
Culminating the meeting on an inspirational note was a keynote address by business coach, educator and author Flip Flippen, who wrote the best-seller "The Flip Side: Break Free of the Behaviors That Hold You Back." He offered participants strategies to "flip" negative thoughts and behaviors into positive action to achieve dramatic improvements in performance, leadership, trust and productivity in both their personal and professional lives.
2012 OneShow EDUCATION
A wide-ranging OneShow educational program provided operators with strategies to position their businesses for profitability in a fast-evolving industry.
Dr. Michael Kasavana, NAMA endowed professor at the School for Hospitality Business of Michigan State University (E. Lansing), led a workshop on leveraging technology in vending operations.
Another highlight was a government affairs symposium, where speakers from NAMA, allied trade associations and partner organizations explored recent legislative and regulatory developments that affect vending and coffee service businesses.
Jeff Deitchler, PrairieFire Coffee Roasters (Wichita, KS), moderated a well-attended Coffee and Water Service Operators symposium, while Vic Pemberton, Pepi Food Service (Bainbridge, GA), emceed the popular Vending/Coffee Service 101.
NAMA Coffee Committee chairman Howard Chapman, Royal Cup Coffee (Birmingham, AL), detailed NAMA's new strategic plan for the office coffee segment. And Ross Colbert of Rabobank International explored cold beverage trends and provided strategic insights.
DePaul University's Dr. Mark L. Frigo explained the basics of developing a focused growth strategy, and Coca-Cola director of vending strategy Dan Avenick moderated a panel session on engaging consumers through social media.
A panel session was devoted to the new self-checkout micromarket business.
Jay Newman and Lawrence Hake of Win the Bigger Game (Lake Geneva, WI) discussed ways to identify and hire ideal route drivers, based on the results a national study of more than 300 driver profiles from within the industry.
NAMA also conducted the latest presentations of its long-running Supervisor Development and Quality Coffee Certification programs, and a brand-new sales training program titled "Coaching For Improved Sales Performance."
photo | LEADERSHIP: National Automatic Merchandising Association chairman Brad Ellis (left), Crane Merchandising Systems presents NAMA Industry Person of the Year Award to Craig Hesch, A.H. Management Group (Rolling Meadows, IL), during opening ceremonies at NAMA OneShow. Hesch, a third-generation operator, served two terms as NAMA chairman during period of industry change and revitalization.
photo | STANDING ROOM ONLY: Convention-goers line the walls during leadoff technology seminar at 2012 National Automatic Merchandising Association OneShow in Las Vegas, signalling the largest turnout in years. Two-part session, moderated by Dr. Michael Kasavana of Michigan State University (E. Lansing), began with a panel session on leveraging new technology to improve productivity, gain a competitive edge and enhance profitability, and concluded with another on developments in cashless payment technology in vending.