Trade shows, technology, market opportunities top reader interest in 2022Vending Times

Vending Times ranks the 10 best read stories in 2022 based on reader interest.

Image provided by iStock.

Twenty-twenty-two had its challenges, but in spite of a continuing pandemic, supply chain challenges and a labor shortage, progress was undeniable.

Trade shows came back in a big way, giving convenience services operators a chance to find exciting new products while offering suppliers the chance to gain critical feedback.

Hence, it’s no surprise that half of the 10 best read stories in Vending Times this past year covered trade events such as the 2021 Self-Service Innovation Summit.

Technology stories and new market opportunities also garnered strong reader interest.

Following are the top 10 best read stories.

1. McCormick Place ‘kills it’ with convenience services back on the move

Image provided by the National Automatic Merchandising Association.

Trade shows came back with a bang in 2022, and the national NAMA show at Chicago’s McCormick Place was no exception.

An April feature story covering the exhibitor highlights of the show was the most read story in 2022.

The 2022 trade show, following a canceled event in 2020 and a poorly attended one in 2021, featured the inaugural “Imagination Way,” an interactive gallery that greeted attendees on the way to the main trade show floor.

The article covered exhibits form 365 Retail Markets, Apriva, Cantaloupe Inc., Evoca Group/Cafection, Farmer’s Fridge, Fastcorp Vending, inReality, Invenda Group AG, Just Baked Smart Bistro, KioSoft Technologies LLC, Lavazza Group, LBX Food Robotics, Nayax Ltd ., Nespresso Professional, Nestle Partners Solutions Lab, Newco, Parlevel Systems, PayRange Inc. Quench USA Inc., Sanden Vendo, Seaga, Swyft, Three Square Market, TouchTunes, TriTeq, True Manufacturing and Vianet.

2. Refreshing USA: How a national CS operation retains the entrepreneurial spirit

Image provided by 365 Retail Markets.

Refreshing USA, a nationwide network of vending operations that also services a nationwide water vending business, was the second most read story in 2022, published in March.

The story chronicled how entrepreneur Ryan Wear developed a nationwide network of vending operations across 44 states after launching his first vending business in 1994 while in high school in Everett, Washington.

After selling his vending business in 2011 to Canteen Vending Services, Wear recognized how trust, transparency and speed to close were important to vending operators looking to sell their business.

He then established Refreshing USA as a company to combine independent operators that could compete with the backing of a nationwide operation.

In 2014, he acquired a water vending machine manufacturing company which became WaterStation Technology to manufacture, market and service a 5-gallon water vending machine serving retail locations.

He followed a two-step strategy, whereby he established a retail water vending business branch, then acquired a vending company to service the water machines in addition to its existing vending customers.

3. Fresh meal vending pioneers hail from diverse backgrounds

Image provided by Coolgreens.

The third most read story in 2022 was a report on a panel discussion about fresh food vending at the 2021 Self-Service Innovation Summit in Hollywood, Florida.

The story, published in February 2022, explored how state-of-the-art vending technology has enabled entrepreneurs from outside traditional vending to bring new ideas to fresh food vending.

The panelists mostly represented companies that have expanded into vending from other industries.

Automat Kitchen is a concept based on the historic Automat that served freshly prepared food in coin-operated cubicles. Automat Kitchen delivers freshly made meals prepared on site to food lockers where customers retrieve their orders from cubicles with Internet connected LCD screen doors.

Coolgreens, a salad and sandwich restaurant chain that serves made-from-scratch food, expanded into food vending during the pandemic. In February 2020, the company launched Coolgreens Market, a “smart fridge” that uses the existing Coolgreens restaurants as commissaries.

Aramark Canada’s foodservice division researched options and discovered an automated pizza machine that offers freshly made (as opposed to frozen prepared), hot pizza in three minutes. The company also introduced the robotic saladmaker Sally, which complemented the hot pizza.

Upmeals, a Vancouver caterer, developed vending machines leveraging artificial intelligence and placed the machines in airports, universities, condominiums, offices and public spaces.

4. Following COVID-19: How coronavirus pandemic is impacting convenience services

Image provided by iStock.

While the pandemic eased in 2022, it was still a force to be reckoned with.

Vending Times continued its log of articles addressing how the pandemic was affecting convenience services.

Reader references to this page marked the fourth most common reader action in 2022. The page listed pandemic related stories by date.

The stories addressed topics such as locations deploying COVID test vending machines, how convenience services businesses were impacted by COVID, how the pandemic impacted convenience service company business strategies and how closed businesses added vending machines to continue serving customers.

5. Crypto ATMs on a roll: What you should know

Image provided by iStock.

A feature article on crypto ATMs published in February was the fifth most read story in 2022.

The story reported comments from a panel at the 2021 Self-Service Innovation Summit exploring the opportunities and challenges facing cryptocurrency ATM location managers, operators and manufacturers.

While the pandemic forced many retail locations to close, the panelists agreed increased interest in crypto ATMs.

The panel, which included both crypto ATM manufacturers and operators, agreed growth is still in its early stage, meaning a major opportunity exists for those willing to learn about this emerging industry.

One panelist, a fuel station operator, said the decline in sales during the pandemic is what got him interested in crypto ATMs.

The panelists also agreed that crypto ATMs make it easy for consumers to buy crypto versus buying it on an online crypto exchange.

One panelist noted that because most crypto ATMs require customers to pay for bitcoin with cash, the crypto ATMs and traditional ATMs help each other in a store.

6. What do you eat after micro markets?

Image provided by Minus Forty.

While micro markets have been surging and replacing vending banks for more than a decade, technology continues to advance, bringing new opportunities for convenience services operators.

The sixth most read story in 2022, published in April, featured a panel session at the NAMA show on what technologies could replace micro markets. Much of the discussion focused on “smart stores,” which combine the security of a vending machine with the product diversity of a micro market.

The panel defined smart stores, also known as “smart fridges,” as merchandisers that require the customer to unlock the machine by swiping a payment card or scanning a QR code before selecting a product, after which the system automatically bills them.

One panelist described the smart store as a format that serves high customer traffic, requires less investment than micro markets but offers high customer value.

Smart stores also address one of the biggest issues micro market operators face: customer theft, which has become more important for many operators post pandemic because employers are reluctant to address the problem in a difficult labor market.

7. The ‘ins and outs’ of EMV: What you need to know

Image provided by iStock.

Card brands are mandating EMV compliant readers for unattended contactless transactions and recommending them for contact transactions.

Hence, the seventh most read article, published in February, addressed what convenience services operators need to know about updating card readers to accept EMV transactions. The article was written by Carly Furman, CEO of Nayax Ltd.

EMV transactions can be contact or contactless transactions. An EMV-contact transaction is made by inserting the chip card into the reader, which reads the encrypted information to enable the payment, while an EMV-contactless transaction can be made by either tapping a radio frequency identification enabled chip card or presenting a mobile wallet app, such as Google Pay or Apple Pay.

Implementing EMV compliant transactions can help operators lift gross margins by:

  • Ensuring acceptance of the highest growing type of transactions—EMV contactless.
  • Having the ability to accept incremental authorization for multi-vend transactions to increase average transaction value.
  • Having less declined transactions.
  • Ensuring the cashless investment is future-proof by accepting EMV contact/insert.
  • Reducing the chargeback liability and fees as the card issuers will be responsible if it’s an EMV transaction.
  • Retaining and increasing location wins by reducing credit card fraud from occurring at machines on their premises.

8. Keurig K-Cup consumers eligible for settlement

Image provided by iStock.

The eighth most read story, published in August, reported the settlement in a lawsuit claiming K Cup coffee pods were mislabeled as recyclable.

The plaintiff in the suit, Smith v. Keurig Green Mountain, Inc., alleged K Cup coffee pods were labeled as being recyclable when they were not widely recyclable. Keurig denied wrongdoing but agreed to a settlement to avoid continued litigation.

Consumers are considered settlement class members if they bought K Cup coffee pods labeled as recyclable in the US for personal, family or household purposes from June 8, 2016 and Aug. 8, 2022.

The settlement provided $10 million to pay valid claims, along with claims administrator costs, attorney fees and class representative awards.

9. Sodexo to acquire Accent Food Services

Image provided by iStock.

The ninth most read story, published in January, reported that Sodexo SA, the Paris, France-based food services and facilities management company, agreed to acquire Accent Food Services, based in Pflugerville, Texas, for an undisclosed sum. Accent Food Services was one of the nation’s largest regional foodservice companies with an operating footprint in the Mid-Atlantic, Southwest and West Coast.

10. What are the new vending opportunities?

Neal Patel of Blue City Hotels, Sharon Peyer of Crane Payment Innovations and Sean Feeney of Cantaloupe Inc. explore growth opportunities for vending. Photo courtesy of NAMA.

New technology and changing market conditions are creating new opportunities for convenience services.

The 10th most read story, published in April, reported on a panel during the 2022 NAMA show that explored what role established operators can play as hospitality and retail companies explore new ways to utilize vending.

Retail and hospitality businesses, the panel noted, are taking an interest in vending machines to compensate for less available labor for their physical spaces.

A panelist representing the hotel industry said the pandemic caused many hotels to seek vending machines since they do not have the staff to manage pantries.

The hotel executive first bought his own machines but found operating them to be too much work. He then decided to work with vending operators.

Another panelist noted hospitals don’t have the labor to operate gift shops and are looking to vending machines to sell gifts.

The panelist further pointed out that vending machines can become the “last mile delivery” in a retailer’s supply chain, similar to how some businesses allow customers to pick up deliveries at convenience stores.

Elliot Maras is the editor of Kiosk Marketplace and Vending Times. He brings three decades covering unattended retail and commercial foodservice.

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