In 2012, the National Automatic Merchandising Association co-located the CoffeeTea&Water event with the International Bottled Water Association show. While it certainly brought more attendees to the CTW event, I found myself wondering what opportunities it really offered to vending operators, specifically those in coffee service.
Members of IBWA tend to be water service providers, some of which do offer coffee. At least one operator I met at CTW had crossed over. The owner of PrairieFire Coffee, Wichita, Kan., was actually a water service provider who acquired an OCS operation and rebranded the entire company. He had staff there working both sides of the show.
5-gallon water business still viable
While vending and coffee service providers have reported the 5-gallon water business has been trending downward over the years, it's not a dying business. As recently as the September issue of Automatic Merchandiser, Renee Ridenour, Pine Mountain Springs Inc., based in Wilmington, Del., was talking about an uptick in that segment. And over lunch at the CTW show I got into a discussion with a bottle cap manufacturer showing at IBWA. He said 5-gallon might be losing marketshare to point-of-use (POU), but the 5-gallon numbers were still growing, quite a bit, at least among members of IBWA. From his perspective, water delivery made a lot of sense for coffee service providers who are already delivering to a location.
NAMA coffee service research revealed at CTW reported that location employees with coffee service want more liquid refreshment options, better tasting water top among them. One of the take-a-ways was that water is an all day beverage with good growth potential.
Perhaps the true opportunity of co-locating with IBWA was breaking preconceived notions of the water business, whether that was dispelling the myth that 5-gallon business is diminishing or that it’s a complicated business to start. Water is one of the few beverages everyone agrees is healthy and research shows it’s something locations want. I won't be surprised to see more operations focusing on water in the future.