NAMA To Honor Heidi Chico, Peter Fetherston And Larry Atnip With Industry Awards

Posted On: 4/18/2019

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The National Automatic Merchandising Association will present its 2019 Industry Awards during a ceremony at its upcoming NAMA Show at the Las Vegas (NV) Convention Center on Wednesday, April 24, during the opening general session at 1 p.m.

Recognized as the most widely respected leaders in the industry, as nominated by their peers, are Industry Person of the Year, Heidi Chico, chief executive of U-Select-It; Operator of the Year, Peter Fetherston, chief executive officer of Canteen; and Allied Member of the Year Larry Atnip, vice-president as Atnip Co. Inc. (Fullerton, CA) and president of Premier Broker Partners (Turnersville, NJ).

The awards are presented to individuals who best exemplify support of convenience services through a history of service and leadership throughout the industry and in their own communities. They must be innovative, possess a willingness to expand conventional practices and follow ethical business standards in accordance with the NAMA code of ethics.

“A treasured NAMA tradition, these awards recognize individuals who have served the industry and NAMA as leaders, innovators and advocates,” said NAMA chief executive Carla Balakgie. “Heidi, Peter and Larry have helped their companies achieve success while devoting their time and talent to advancing the industry as a whole and supporting their colleagues and communities. I congratulate each of them on this well-deserved honor.”


Heidi Chico – Industry Person of the Year

  Heidi Chico
Heidi Chico emphasized, from her perspective leading a major machine manufacturing company, that enduring customer service and quality are created through continuous process improvement through lean manufacturing of equipment that creates convenience for the operator and end user alike.

“It is exciting to be part of the transformation of our industry. We are moving to the convenience services industry rapidly focusing on our clients' ever-changing needs,” Chico commented. “It is a start in the right direction, however we will always evolve our core purpose to adapt to a changing world through our refreshment services. It is inspiring to me to see this industry adapt new ideas to provide an experience that provides comfort, accessibility, and reliability to our consumers.”

Chico has spent more than three decades dedicating herself to her family business, The Wittern Group, founded by her grandfather, FA Wittern Sr.  in 1931. She began her career with Clive, IA-based equipment manufacturer after earning her B.S. degree from Iowa State University. Among her many achievements at The Wittern Group, Chico led the U-Select-It team that introduced the recent development of open connectivity and American Disability Act compliance solutions, along with new ways to deliver controlled solutions for the self-serve industry.

Chico served as NAMA's first female chairperson in 2018, culminating several leadership positions on the NAMA board of directors since 2006. She has served on NAMA's government affairs committee for seven years and is an active supporter of the association's legislative initiatives on Capitol Hill. Chico has been involved with the NAMA Executive Forum; Executive Committee; and NAMA Foundation. She is also one of the founding members of NAMA's WIN (Women in the Industry) networking group.

The U-Select-It chief also serves on the boards of  The Wittern Group, Greater Des Moines Junior Achievement, Drake University and Des Moines Cold Storage. She has also served on the board of the Young President Organization, both on a chapter and regional levels.

“I'm extremely humbled and honored to have been recognized by many peers that I've encountered in one way or another,” Chico commented. “As an award-winner, I am committed to assisting and supporting our mission and vision to which I have grown accustomed over the years I have served. I truly am inspired by all the colleagues I have met within this industry. I am blessed to have been able to be part of this industry.”

Peter Fetherston – Operator of the Year

  Peter Fetherston
Peter Fetherston has led by example at the helm of the nation's largest vending company by embracing the latest technologies, service models and practices to best serve today's ever-evolving customer needs, while boosting operational efficiency and profitability.

“It's a huge honor and I'm very appreciative of the recognition of this award, but I must add that we have some 10,000 people on the Canteen team doing great things,” he commented. “I don't see it as being personalized to me as much as it is to all of them and I hope they feel part of it.”

Fetherston was appointed chief executive of Compass Group North America's Canteen division in 2013. He joined U.K.-based Compass Group PLC in March 1996 and held a number of financial and commercial positions. In 2001, he moved from the U.K. to the U.S., initially becoming divisional controller for Compass Group national accounts, and subsequently adding responsibility for financial support to Flik and then for Eurest. In 2010, he became chief financial officer for contract foodservice.

Prior to joining Compass Group, Fetherston worked for Bass Brewers in the U.K. from 1991 to 1996. A native of Belfast, Northern Ireland, Fetherston holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics and Accountancy from Loughborough University in England and is qualified as a member of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.

Among the many technological advances Canteen instituted under Fetherston's leadership was its move in 2016 to deploy Cantaloupe Systems' Seed Pro cloud-based analytics system across all Canteen branches and integrate it with iVend, Canteen's proprietary vending management system for a complete end-to-end solution.

“It's nothing short of a transformation we are undergoing, moving to a data-driven, tech-enabled, innovation-led industry,” Fetherston commented. “The advance of micromarkets has been a huge boost to our growth and the past five to 10 years has demonstrated the journey we're on, both at Canteen and as an industry. That journey needs to continue both to keep serving the consumer and from a retail, logistics and digital consumer-engagement standpoint. Data should be at the forefront of our go-to-market strategy and the future is extremely bright.'

Community involvement is at the core of Canteen's culture and a major partnership formed under Fetherston's leadership is with Hiring Our Heroes, a nationwide initiative established by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation to help veterans, transitioning service members, and military spouses find meaningful employment opportunities.

Larry Atnip – Allied Member Of The Year

  Larry Atnip
Larry Atnip's vending and OCS industry experience began in the 1970s when he helped his parents pack Everpure filters to ship to customers after school and collated product flyers at night in the early days of the family business. His father, Dick, founded Fullerton, CA-based sales organization Atnip Co. in 1962. Larry follows in his father's footsteps; Dick has also been a longtime industry advocate, and has been recognized with numerous honors over the decades including NAMA Industry Person of the Year and was inducted into the NAMA Coffee Services Hall of Fame.

“Being part of a family business at an early age was inspiring; I saw firsthand the results of my dad's hard work as an entrepreneur pioneering the vending broker business,” the second-generation broker recalled.

Atnip went on to study communication, international relations and fine arts at the University of Southern California and played on the varsity water polo team. He also started two advertising businesses: a restaurant menu magazine for Orange and Los Angeles counties with his brother David; and a university information poster at five different colleges. He worked after class each day as well as during the summer and found his passion for sales.

After graduating from USC in 1982, Atnip continued to build his advertising businesses and look for new opportunities. However, the untimely death of his father's only salesman set him on course for his lifelong career.

“A funny thing happened while I was filling in as my dad searched for a new salesperson; I fell in love with the vending and OCS industry,” he reflected. “The people in this business are great, hard-working folks. I enjoyed it so much, after a year of helping out I determined I could make a real difference in my dad's business model.”

The young sales professional convinced his father to let him open up the northern California market. He started with three lines and, after six months, built the business to nine manufacturers and was able to hire full-time salesperson Ken Burton who is still with the company 35 years later, managing the northern California market along with two additional salespeople. After this success, Atnip Co. further expanded its business to the Northwest and Rocky Mountain markets and today it covers the 14 western states.

Most recently, Atnip Co. created Premier Broker Partners LLC, an integrated national salesforce comprised of top-tier brokers.

“[Premier Brokerage's] initiatives serve as further proof that each day brings new prospects for sales and service, as new products, channels and markets are continually being created or evolving,” Atnip commented. “I find my business rewarding in many ways both professionally and personally. I am proud that Atnip Co. is able to provide employment for over 20 families and am honored that so many fine manufacturers choose our company to be their sales representation. I thoroughly enjoy helping my customers build their businesses and am fortunate to be able to spend every day working with my family as we strive to make a difference in an industry that has given us so much.”