Live From The Show: High Tech And Samples Galore At 2016 NAMA OneShow

April 14, 2016

The first day at the 2016 NAMA OneShow in Chicago, IL didn't disappoint. From NAMA unveiling a new logo to the increase in exhibitors, the trade show has been full of things to see and learn about. I found that micro markets have been making an appearance in a big way starting with a micro market from Avanti for attendees to use in the entrance area. On the show floor the big names in micro markets are making a splash talking to existing customers and potential new ones. In an education session yesterday, one Iowa operator said, "If you're not doing micro markets, you will be or you'll lose your business. It's not a fad, it's here to stay." There are also a number of new entrants into the micro market space, such as Airlift and Yoke. These aren't the kiosk models, but something that looks like a tablet or iPad that scans an item and accepts mobile payment. 

Vending management systems are vying for their fair share of attendee attention. New and existing VMS providers are promoting how these systems can benefit operators. It's all about eliminating the inefficiencies to improve the bottom line and collecting and then mining the data. The companies range from the more traditional server based systems to the small electronic plug-in that creates a smart vending machine. Each technology has core offerings and different additional features, more than ever before. Operators need to be more aware of their goals for their company when deciding on a VMS technology, in order to maximize its return. Implementation of the VMS can't be the goal, because there are too many systems to choose from that do too many different things. It's best to decide on a course of action and then select the system that most closely matches your criteria and helps you attain your goals. And if it's a single service solution, that is even better - at least that was one of the messages of the packed V-Commerce Trending In Vending panel discussion led by Dr. Michael Kasavana. Everyone wanted to see and understand the technologies that are changing the industry and have the potential to make it more profitable for the operator. 

Healthy isn't going away

Many of the sessions I attended focused on healthy items, from the desire of consumers for these items to be available in vending to the obesity epidemic and how it will continue to garner attention from politicians and policy makers. Better-for-you isn't a fad, and with policies being enacted and government agencies trying to change what people are consuming to stop the increase in global obesity, it will be a topic vending operators will be forced to deal with for years to come. Luckily the show floor was packed with items to meet many different aspects of the healthy vending segment. From protein packed, no sugar added muffins in a cup that could be cooked in a microwave to many varieties of baked veggie puffs, there was a lot to taste. The snack options meeting healthy standards have really increased in recent years and with many new entrants. There is a lot of opportunity to place new, interesting products consumers have not seen before, charge the prices necessary and still meet that nutritional void in convenience snacking.

Challenges still remain in the vending segment. Stigma of the vending machine, dealing with data, hiring good employees, are a few, but with an open mind and can-do attitude, there are many reasons here to be excited. NAMA and the entire industry is looking to make what and how we sell better in order to become the go-to retailer for on-the-go consumers. 

We'd love to hear from you, too. How is your show experience? What have you found most interesting or helpful? Shoot me an email or send me a Tweet!

You can see live up-to-date show coverage by following @VendingMagazine, @VMW_Zimmer and @VMW_Refermat on Twitter. See you on the show floor!