NAMA's 2017 OneShow Encapsulates Vending Industry's Innovation And Expansion

Posted On: 5/3/2017

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TAGS: National Automatic Merchandising Association, NAMA 2017 OneShow report, Meet With More Convenience, vending trade show, micro markets, breakroom design, Carla Balakgie, The NAMA Show 2018, Randy Smith, Lance Whorton, Mandeep Arora, Pat Hagerty, Vistar

EDITOR'S NOTE: On May 4, the National Automatic Merchandising Association released its official registration numbers for the 2017 OneShow. NAMA reported 4,500 registrants, compared with 4,300 last year, a 4.6% increase. This year's trade show also had the highest number of exhibitors to date, with 311 companies, up 8% over last year's 288. Seventy-six exhibiting companies were first-time participants, up from 67 in 2016.

LAS VEGAS -- The National Automatic Merchandising Association's 2017 OneShow was alive with innovation and enthusiasm, living up to this year's theme of empowering industry members to "Meet With More Convenience." Vending's biggest annual trade show and convention ran from April 19 to 21 at the Venetian resort here.

Fresh and better-for-you foods and snacks, trendy hot and cold beverages, and cutting-edge equipment, payment and point-of-sale marketing innovations reflect an industry moving forward to meet demands of a new generation of consumers. OneShow's educational program delved into hot topics ranging from category management in micromarkets and breakroom design, to nutrition, regulatory trends and what makes millennials tick in the workplace.

NAMA has not yet tallied the OneShow's final registration numbers, but the event was expected to draw about 4,500 vending, coffee service, micromarket and foodservice professionals, while hosting more than 300 exhibitors, in line with last year's figures. Nevertheless, the consensus among exhibitors who Vending Times surveyed on the show floor was that the event was packed with a steady stream of operators ready to invest in the latest equipment, technology and products to elevate the consumer experience and the profitability of their businesses. Operators expressed even more enthusiasm for the expanding array of products and technologies available to them as they seek new resources to satisfy changing consumer demands.

This year was the event's final run under the OneShow moniker. Moving ahead, it will be called "The NAMA Show," with the tagline: "Meet with Convenience." NAMA president and chief executive Carla Balakgie said during NAMA's annual meeting that the OneShow name -- adopted six years ago to reflect the discontinuation of the western spring show -- is no longer relevant and that most industry members already refer to the event as "The NAMA Show." The first convention under the NAMA Show banner will be held March 21-23, 2018, at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

see: National Automatic Merchandising Association Discards OneShow Name; The First 'NAMA Show' Takes Place In March 2018

A highlight of the NAMA annual meeting was the keynote speech by former first lady Laura Bush, and ensuing conversation between her and Balakgie. In an address that was alternately witty and poignant, Bush reminisced about her White House experiences as the daughter-in-law of a president and the wife of another during periods of success and sudden crisis. She praised the skilled, dedicated White House staff for contributing effectively, although quietly, to the continuity of the United States government.

Laura Bush, NAMA OneShow, vending, Carla Balakgie, Our Great Big Backyard
PHOTO: Former first lady Laura Bush talks with Carla Balakgie about "Our Great Big Backyard," a children's book commemorating the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service (co-written with daughter Jenna) and her husband's paintings of war heroes.

The former first lady talked about the Bushes' continuing work on health and human rights matters around the world. She explained that ongoing work at the George W. Bush Presidential Center on the campus of Southern Methodist University in University Park (near Dallas) is making the site part of a migration route for monarch butterflies, and is landscaped with native Texas plants.

She shared her memories of President Bush in good times and bad, and quoted his summary of American politics: "The ship of state will tilt to the right and to the left, but always remains on course."

Additionally, NAMA presented its 2017 awards, which recognize the achievements of three industry members. Randy Smith of LightSpeed Automation (Suwanee, GA) is Industry Person of the Year; Lance Whorton, Imperial Co. (Tulsa, OK), is Operator of the Year; and Mandeep Arora, cofounder and chief executive of Cantaloupe Systems (San Francisco), is Allied Member of the Year.

see: NAMA Honors Smith, Whorton And Arora As 2017's Award-Winners

In her address to vending industry members, Balakgie summed up a year of progress that included the launch of the new "convenience services" industry identity. Convenience services encompass vending, micromarkets, pantries and office coffee and other self-serve retail approaches that have yet to emerge.

The NAMA chief recounted NAMA's legislative efforts that strengthened its voice at all levels of government and mitigated challenges for operators and manufacturers. She estimated that its advocacy's efforts on Capitol Hill -- addressing metallic coin content changes, Department of Energy conservation standards for vending machines and flexibility in calorie-labeling compliance -- saved the industry $3.6 billion.

She outlined three steps on which the association is focusing to be relevant to millennials, a key demographic that operators now serve. The first is to develop an empathetic, localized understanding of the consumer and the ways in which operators can deliver a personalized, frictionless experience. A clear trend among young consumers is an interest in natural and local foods and in slowing down to savor food and beverages, she pointed out, and the industry can benefit enormously by keying in and delivering new products. NAMA is also ramping up its commitment to leveraging data to gain an ever deeper understanding of the demands of a new generation. Lastly, the association will focus on forming strategic, nontraditional partnerships with other industries and organizations to broaden vending's perspectives and to tap into new opportunities.

"We will cast the line further out," Balakgie said. "What [are] convenience services? Could our potential competitors be our partners?"

Balakgie recognized NAMA executive vice-president and chief operating officer Dan Mathews, who will retire, effective July 1, after an 18-year tenure at NAMA that culminated a 50-year career in the vending industry. Balakgie also announced that NAMA will establish a scholarship fund in Mathews's name.

see: National Automatic Merchandising Association's Dan Mathews Announces Retirement

NAMA chairman Pat Hagerty, chief executive of Vistar Corp., urged vending operators attending the general meeting to embrace changing consumer demands and to think creatively in an environment in which fewer employees are working onsite during conventional business hours. Micromarkets, free-vend "microkitchens" and pantry services are growing exponentially to supply the better-for-you items the younger generation demands. Food and beverages at work foster camaraderie, teamwork and productivity, conventional wisdom holds. So rethinking the workplace refreshment experience is increasing sales for operators, Hagerty pointed out.

The chairman emphasized that the millennial generation will receive the greatest inherited wealth ever, making it an especially powerful consumer segment. He urged operators to capture that spending power, and to think like millennials when it comes to technology. "The size of the Snapchat universe is staggering, with 150 million users daily sharing 2.5 billion snaps a day," Hagerty said. "Are you using it with your customers? You might want to."

NAMA 2017 Industry Awards, Randy Smith, LightSpeed Automation, Lance Whorton, Imperial Co., Mandeep Arora, Cantaloupe Systems
MEN OF THE YEAR: NAMA presented its 2017 awards to, from left, Mandeep Arora (Allied Member of the Year) of Cantaloupe Systems, Randy Smith (Industry Person of the Year) of LightSpeed Automation and Lance Whorton (Operator of the Year) of Imperial Cos. during its annual meeting. The NAMA Industry Awards are presented to vending's leaders who are innovative, possess a willingness to expand conventional practices and follow ethical business standards.