What You Should Be Looking For At CTW

Nov. 3, 2017

The 2017 CTW is upon us. I can only hope that the mantra I heard at the 2017 OneShow has changed. 

Over and over, I heard guys in suits representing very large Operators, saying the same thing. “Too many SKU’s. We don’t need all these products.” Old school thinking for sure. 

I want to grab those guys by their lapels, shake them and assure them that as Amazon gears up to compete in the Micro-Market and Pantry business, there isn’t one blue jean clad person over there who is worried about the number of product offerings in their arsenal. 

So that leaves us with the well managed small and medium sized Operators to take on the next wave of competition. These are the Operators who understand that a Micro-Market or a Pantry is something more than a big vending machine without a coin slot. Product variety with lots of creativity is required. 

With that in mind, here are ten things to look for as you graze the Exhibitor floor at the 10th Annual CTW Show: 

1. Organizational Systems – With all those new SKU’s in play, you need to invest in the latest warehouse inventory and truck management systems. 

2. Micro-Market and Pantry Racking, Merchandising and Design Products – You know that the new wave of competition isn’t going to roll in some coolers, put up some shelving and call it a Micro-Market. The Micro-Market and Pantry business is changing. Design is now a critical factor in the selling process. Clients expect the Micro-Market and Pantry to reflect the culture of the company. With great confidence, everyone in this segment says they are the best. CTW is your opportunity to find out which supplier best meets your needs. 

3. Designer, Point of Use Water – Water is bigger than ever. The day of the $29.95 per month water cooler is evaporating. Instead, some clients are prepared to pay hundreds a month for a stylish water dispensing system. They want pure water, perfect ice, carbonated options, natural flavorings and for now – they need Operators to supply that equipment. 

4. Snacks – This segment continues to grow. Introducing a new healthy snack, superfood snack or meat snack (the new protein bar) that tastes great can revitalize a Micro-Market, Pantry Service or Vending location. Do some tasting or better yet, get the opinion of a 30-year-old. Since the “balanced diet” is in vogue, check out the new versions of chocolate and traditional snacks as well. They are still flying off the shelves. 

5. Sustainability – A recent study pointed out that 51% of consumers in the 24-44 age bracket want sustainable products. Look for office kitchen paper products that offer sustainability. Most importantly, focus on value. Can you find an eco-cup that is not available at Costco and won’t cause client sticker shock? 

6. Drip Brewers – Regardless of all the investment in bean to cup, the traditional drip brewer is still going strong. Find out what the drip brewer manufacturers are recommending when it comes to brewing fancy Third Wave coffees – an exploding segment of the industry that requires something more precise than a 20-year-old workhorse brewer that is still pumping out coffee in many locations. 

7. First Aid – If you aren’t in the business, you should be. First Aid is an excellent ancillary product for OCS and Vending locations. Profit margins are excellent, and I have never seen an emergency service call because someone ran out of ice packs (which seem to need a lot of replenishment during camping season). Emergency supplies are another opportunity. Sales really jump after every little tremor! Talk to other Operators who are enjoying the profitably of the First Aid business. 

8. Custom Anything – This means going the extra mile, but if the client is worth it, there is no better way to solidify the relationship than custom logo cups or custom 16oz water bottles. Certainly, you will get a nice contract with that type of commitment. 

9. Health Oriented and Specialty Teas – This was always a huge seller, but few Operators seem to capitalize on the opportunity that exists. Certain eclectic locations will really jump at teas that fight colds, encourage weight loss and promote general health. Look at the success of your Green Teas. Additionally, great tasting teas with a unique presentation can drive tea sales, a segment that is always growing, slow and steady. 

10. Frozen Foods and Dairy – This product area has huge growth potential in Pantry Service and Micro-Markets. Ice cream, frozen yogurt and the many varieties of milk are becoming essential products – more SKU’s with big upside. Search for long shelf life solutions and ideas on how to manage that frozen and perishable cargo. 

Beyond the Exhibitor Floor, which is a small window during CTW, don’t be shy about communicating with other Operators in and out of educational sessions. Over the years, we have gained invaluable knowledge about the state of the industry and current industry trends during morning coffee, or over a cocktail at a supplier open house. 

Take advantage of the #1 resource at CTW: Other Operators and the experience they can share.