Despite a gloomy backdrop, my takeaway from the NAMA Show was overwhelmingly positive. Keep in mind, this outlook comes from a guy who spent three hours presenting to six people in a room that was set up for 200.
My optimism was driven by two factors: the incredible New Orleans oysters that were readily available (both raw and grilled) and what I saw with my own eyes on the trade show floor – innovation that will be instrumental in helping the industry to move forward.
At first glance, the 2021 NAMA Show in New Orleans reminded me of the 1990s’ conventions that happened right after the big tobacco companies decided to abandon the vending industry. There were gaping holes on the convention floor. Operator participation was down due to COVID-19 concerns and an unprecedented drop in revenue, especially among OCS operators.
Technology solutions, product innovations
As contributing editor of Automatic Merchandiser and VendingMarketWatch.com, I was assigned to do eight video interviews with a wide variety of exhibitors who have one thing in common. They want the industry to know that their product is something special – something that operators need to have in their arsenal as they work to rebuild their sales in the coming months.
The videos will allow them to reach operators who could not attend the convention, as well as those who attended and want a deeper understanding of the offerings.
Doing these interviews, I saw how much the convenience services industry has truly evolved in just the past year. There are more technology solutions and product innovations available then ever before. For the survivors of this brutal period in our industry, when the offices finally repopulate, we should be looking at a “Golden Age” of opportunity. Hopefully, that will begin in 2022’s first quarter.
A look at the innovators
The eight companies that I interviewed were quite enthusiastic and excited to share their stories, innovations, technology, products and solutions, all designed to give operators a competitive advantage. With that in mind, here is an inside look at eight companies that are poised to elevate the industry. Click on the company name to watch the interview.
Featured: On demand coffee roasting for the workplace, including the Barista model and the Retro model that hovers above and feeds roasted coffee into a bean to cup brewer.
Notable quote: “When you talk about the whole world of culinary, it always comes down to two things; the quality of the ingredients that you use and how fresh it is. When you take green coffee beans, roast them, grind them and brew them, you are tasting coffee for the first time.”
Matan Scharf – Chief Marketing Officer, Ansa
Featured: SimpliGet – Avanti’s remote ordering solution.
Notable quote: “It creates an entirely new business line for an operator, whether they have their own commissary, or they use a ghost kitchen or they work with a local kitchen. It allows them to provide a fresh food, on demand ordering solution, integrated with a custom delivery option.”
John Reilly – President, Avanti Markets
Featured: POUR’D (for cold brew) and FRIIA (for drinking water)
Notable quote: “There are a few issues with having cold coffee at the office now. Kegs are big, they are bulky, they are heavy, and they require refrigeration. Concentrates are shelf stable. Now, with POUR’D, an operator can have two, three or four boxes in a closet. They can replace a bag-in-box system when it is empty, recycle the used box and they are back up and running in three minutes.”
Brendan Murphy – Western Regional Manager, Marco Beverage Systems
Featured: Cost-efficient refrigerated delivery trucks
Notable quote: “Operators can use fewer trucks, reducing their fleets by as much as 20%.”
Todd Cawley – President, Emerald Transportation Solutions
Featured: The PicoMarket and the new MM6 self-checkout kiosk
Notable quote: “We have a platform called the Global Market Account, which is a single account that consumers can have to go across the entire 365 ecosystem. The consumer only has to fund a single account and they can use our 365 pay app and access every single point of sale we have in the ecosystem.”
William Kolpasky – Product Manager, 365 Retail Markets
Featured: Gimme VMS – Manages an operator’s vending, micro markets and OCS equipment and routes
Notable quote: “What surprises operators is that our VMS program looks like a modern software application. From a consumer app perspective, there are high demands, high standards – for apps that run on your iPhone, that look good, feel good, work every single time, are convenient and fast - and I think that is the type of experience we deliver on with our VMS.”
Evan Jarecki – Cofounder, Gimme
Featured: Cheesewich – The original meat and cheese sandwich, plus some new product introductions, like the breakfast taco
Notable quote: “We have a quality product, the shelf life is amazing, the price point is great, and it really is something that everyone loves, especially if they are looking for a healthier product, no carbs, gluten free, high protein.”
Sarah Nesci – Vice President, Cheesewich
Featured: Elkay’s Smartwell beverage dispenser
Notable quote: “Operators and facility managers absolutely love this equipment. A lot of our customers are taking out their old school water machines and competitive products and putting in an Elkay Smartwell. It really allows you to elevate the workplace experience and give your employees healthy hydration options while staying onsite.”
Josh Kohn – Senior Business Development Manager, Elkay
Some surprising feedback
Several exhibitors at this year’s NAMA Show said one unexpected fringe benefit of the decreased attendance was the opportunity to spend more time with actual decision-makers. “We look to have quality conversations with the right people,” said Gimme’s Jarecki. “This particular show definitely sets up well for that.”
Matan Scharf of Ansa agreed. “We have not been overrun in the booth which is perfect for us. Our technology and our product is so new, so groundbreaking, it requires some explanation,” he said. “The operators have questions that need to be answered and fortunately, we are primarily speaking to owners and decision makers.”
ABOUT BOB TULLIO
Industry consultant and Vending Market Watch contributing editor Bob Tullio is a content specialist who advises operators in the convenience services industry on how to build a successful business from the ground up and advises suppliers on how to successfully connect with operators. Tullio’s YouTube channel, b2b Perspective, is designed to “elevate your business in two minutes.” Tullio is currently developing an online course, Leverage the power of LinkedIn to grow your business. Visit tullioB2B.com to learn more about VMW's contributing editor and his b2b services.