Sustainability - A critical issue and key selling point for OCS operators

Aug. 30, 2023
With customers demanding sustainable solutions, both operators and suppliers are riding the momentum, capitalizing on the opportunity and recognizing the value of protecting the environment.

Sustainability means “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” This most common definition was defined in 1987 by the United Nations Brundtland Commission, and according to many OCS operators, it is right in line with what sustainability means to their customers.

Sustainability expectations

Jennifer Ridnour, client relations representative at First Class Vending and Coffee, has seen the importance of sustainability grow and evolve over her 23 years in the industry. Ridnour said that customers today are asking for more than just eco-friendly products; they want to be sure that their supplier is good to their own employees and the community. They also expect their suppliers to minimize their carbon footprint.

“Most of our vehicles are either hybrid or electric,” said Ridnour. “So, we are delivering products in a sustainable way.” Ridnour added that First Class makes extensive use of solar power and uses technology to improve route efficiency, cutting down on needless trips and further lessening their carbon footprint.

Impact of technology

Barry Rosenberg of Los Angeles-based Vending One said he uses sustainability as a front-line selling point when he is dealing with OCS accounts. “It is a key issue today,” he said. “We don’t even carry foam cups anymore, and when a client brings them up because they want to cut costs, I remind them that those cups are not eco-friendly and that usually puts an end to it.”

At the same time, Rosenberg said that his company’s reliance on technology has helped him to operate more sustainably. “One of the things I did when we started pre-kitting and using dynamic scheduling, was we got rid of all our 14-to-16-foot box trucks. Every one of our drivers is in a van today. We drive smaller vehicles – they are fuel efficient, easier to maintain, anyone can drive them – that is a direct result of pre-kitting and dynamic scheduling our routes for optimum efficiency,” he said.

Emerald Brand resources

Operators have more choices than ever when it comes to supplying “green” products, especially for the office kitchen. Ralph Bianculli, founder and CEO of Paradigm Group, Emerald Brand, said operators have an opportunity to enjoy a competitive advantage when they use the resources that his company makes available. “Operators who work with us have access to a portfolio of 300 sustainable products for their office customers,” said Bianculli. He pointed to the importance of the ESA (Emerald Sustainability Accreditation) program offered by Emerald Brand, which is available to educate operators about sustainable products, improving their selling skills. Additionally, Emerald Brand offers an impact report for operators, allowing them to show their customers how their responsible purchases had a positive impact on the environment. “Operators need to evolve and become more proactive about selling sustainability,” he added.

Growth of composting

There are many ways to sell sustainability. According to Miguel Gonzalez Jr. of Güdpod, the exclusive distributor of Green Packaging Solutions, the manufacturer of commercially compostable capsules for single-cup brewers, including Keurig machines, customers are looking to operators for guidance. “When you look at the workplace – in this case, some of the bigger workplace employers – they all have their sustainability scorecard to check off,” said Gonzalez. “A lot of them are looking for sustainable products to purchase.”

Gonzalez predicts incredible growth in compostable coffee capsules over the next 18 months. He said the momentum toward 100% recyclable and compostable products is moving like a freight train, and there is no stopping it. “In the next 18 months, we will be producing just shy of 500 million fully compostable coffee capsules,” Gonzalez said. “Big name roasters and brands are getting behind composting.”

Good for everyone

Another company that plans to make a big impact in the coming months with its sustainable solution is ansā Coffee, which is releasing a micro roaster designed to roast fresh coffee at the point of consumption, such as a workplace. Matan Scharf, CMO and a founder of ansā Coffee, said it wasn’t their intention to make the world a better place when they designed the micro roaster. It was all about producing a good cup of coffee. “What does it mean to be good? Good can also mean good for the farmer and to make sure that the producers are treated equally, to make sure that they receive compensation proportional to the quality of coffee that they produce,” said Scharf.

“Every time we came up with a solution to a problem, whether it was a mechanical problem or a business problem or a quality issue, whatever solution we came up with … it proved to be the more sustainable solution, the more sustainable alternative. We ended up finding ourselves in a situation where the solution that we devised, which again was built only thinking about making good coffee, turned out to also be good for the environment, good for the farmer, good for everyone,” Scharf added.

Not sustainable – plastic bottles and cold brew kegs

Matt Dudley of Marco Beverage Systems said his company offers a sustainability solution for operators that takes on the environmental menace of plastic bottles with Marco’s stylish FRIAA unit, a single font that rises from a countertop, providing cold and sparkling water – creating a hydration station.

With the same sleek look as FRIAA, Marco’s POUR’D unit is a beverage dispense system that allows a user to access a variety of different beverages, usually cold brew, from a bag in the box or other container source. “It allows operators to eliminate the hassle of dealing with kegs and keg systems. If you think about everything that goes into kegs – the cold storage, the logistics around delivering the kegs, picking up the keg, washing the keg – everything that’s involved with keg systems is not sustainable,” Dudley said.

Do the math – unlock the value

Melissa Brown, a former operator and current CEO of Well-Bean Coffee Roasters, pointed out that the word “sustainability” is almost always associated with being more expensive. “This was one of my biggest topics when I would go in for a sales appointment. I walk into the breakroom and see pods everywhere. I wanted to use my coffee, and I didn’t want to put it in a pod at that point because I wanted it to be fresh,” said Brown. This meant embracing bean-to-cup brewers – a move that ultimately fit into her sales strategy, gave her a sustainable solution and gave her clients better coffee with savings. Once her clients saw the cost-per-cup difference and understood they could save money with a sustainable solution, it was a done deal, she noted. ■


Bob Tullio is a content specialist, speaker, sales trainer, consultant and contributing editor of Automatic Merchandiser/ He advises entrepreneurs on how to build a successful business from the ground up and specializes in helping suppliers connect with operators in the convenience services industry – coffee service, vending, micro markets and pantry service specifically.

Subscribe to Automatic Merchandiser's new podcast, Vending & OCS Nation, hosted by Tullio and designed to make your business more profitable.

Also check out Tullio’s b2b Perspective Channel, which has developed a loyal YouTube following.

Tullio delivers this promise to any company that hires him for a 30-minute or 1-hour Zoom call: "One short session with me will elevate the performance of your sales team.”

About the Author

Bob Tullio

Bob Tullio is a content specialist, speaker, sales trainer, consultant and contributing editor of Automatic Merchandiser and He advises entrepreneurs on how to build a successful business from the ground up. He specializes in helping suppliers connect with operators in the convenience services industry — coffee service, vending, micro markets and pantry service specifically. He can be reached at 818 261-1758 and [email protected]. Tullio welcomes your feedback.

Subscribe to Automatic Merchandiser’s new podcast, Vending & OCS Nation, which Tullio hosts. Each episode is designed to make your business more profitable.



(From left to right): Danny Hadar, partner at Jibe, with ansa team: Yuval Weisglass, Ayelet Dar Wohl, Matan Scharf and Yehonatan Scharf

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