10th NAMA Coffee, Tea And Water Confab Draws 800 Plus To Texas

Posted On: 11/13/2017

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GRAPEVINE, TX -- The National Automatic Merchandising Association recently held its 10th Coffee, Tea & Water conference at the Gaylord Hotel here Nov. 6-8. Again this year, the event ran concurrently with the International Bottled Water Association's annual business conference and trade show. 

The 2017 event continued its steady year-to-year growth. "Ten years ago, NAMA held its first CTW conference in Cherry Hill, NJ," said Carla Balakgie, the association's president and chief executive officer. "The registration was 256, and there were 35 exhibitors. This year, attendance is more than 800 and 115 companies are exhibiting." She thanked the NAMA coffee service committee for its effective work.

Balakgie introduced NAMA board chairman Heidi Chico, U-Select-It, to induct this year's additions to the Coffee Service Hall of Fame and recognize the winner of the Industry Legend award. 

Now enrolled in the Hall of Fame are Dick Atnip, Atnip Co. and Stu Case, Avanti Markets. Both are respected pioneers in product distribution for coffee service and vending, with distinguished records of industry service. Case served as chairman of NAMA's OCS committee and of CTW 2017.

Honored as an Industry Legend is Ken Shea, a 37-year veteran of the office refreshment services industry who has been an industry leader in product distribution, operating, equipment manufacturing and consulting.

Balakgie also welcomed the winners of the first Dan Mathews Scholarship, awarded by the association in honor of its recently retired vice-president and chief operating officer, a devoted proponent of continuing industry education. The 2017 recipients are Jack Brown, ReFresh Facility Services (Hammond, IN) and Hans Hans Lutkefedder, Vend Natural Holdings (Annapolis, MD).

She introduced futurist, trends and innovation expert Jim Carroll, who described the approach that is working for today's successful business founders: "think big, start small and scale fast." A trend represents a threat and an opportunity, he said; the winners are those who recognize the opportunity and move effectively to take advantage of it.

This set the stage for two days of educational sessions and a lively, diverse trade show open to NAMA and IBWA members. Topics ranged from cybersecurity and "socially savvy" workplace cafes through the growing appeal of "bean-to-cup" coffee brewing equipment to the growing popularity of "pantries" (sometimes called "kitchens") as a means of providing an expanded range of free snacks and beverages in a workplace environment redesigned to encourage collaboration and idea exchange among employees.

A government affairs update was presented jointly by NAMA's Eric Dell, senior vice-president, government affairs; Jason Eberstein, director, state and federal affairs; and IBWA vice-president, government relations Cory Martin. The two associations have several legislative and regulatory concerns in common, notably the threat of restrictions on the sale of small-package bottled water imposed under the pretext of controlling solid waste. The NAMA experts also brought conference-goers up to date on current concerns over EPA rules that would require new refrigerant gases in chilled vending machines and the FDA's ongoing deliberations about front-of-pack labeling to satisfy calorie-content label rules for glassfront snack machines.

NAMA's Dell presented the association's 2016 industry census, compiled under the direction of the NAMA Foundation in cooperation with Technomic Inc. (Chicago, IL), a leading foodservice industry research organization. The NAMA government affairs expert pointed out that an industry census is an important advocacy tool for use with lawmakers and regulators.

Among noteworthy findings of the 2016 census (which tabulates calendar years, so is issued in the following year) was a 154% increase over 2014 in the number of operators running micromarkets, and an increase in micromarket sales from $400 million to $1 billion. Dell observed that the results also show that 61% of operators run "blended" businesses (e.g., vending plus coffee service).

The closing session dealt with "the Amazon Effect" - the threat of the sales juggernaut that has thrived by seeing rival retailers' margins as its opportunity. The panel, moderated by NAMA 2017 treasurer Josh Rosenberg, Accent Services (Pflugerville, TX), discussed workplace services' ubiquity in businesses that Amazon would like as customers. Since this industry presently owns that "last mile," they considered the possible value to Amazon of partnering rather than competing with it.

HONOR: Ken Shea (center), Ken Shea & Assoc. and G&J Marketing & Sales, accepts NAMA Coffee Legend award from NAMA president and chief executive Carla Balakgie and Stu Case, OCS committee chairman and 2017 inductee into the Coffee Service Hall of Fame.

HALL OF FAME:  At left, NAMA board chairperson Heidi Chico (left) and president Carla Balakgie present Hall of Fame membership certificate to Richard Atnip, Atnip Co. (Fullerton, CA); at right, Balakgie and Chico certify the enrollment of Stu Case, Avanti Markets, in the shrine. Both new members are product distribution pioneers who have played a leading role in the industry throughout their careers.