Technology, Elevated Products and Expanded Horizons on Display at the 2022 NAMA Show

May 19, 2022

Amid a backdrop of optimism from both operators and suppliers, the 2022 NAMA Show sent one clear message that was hard to miss: The convenience services industry is coming back. At the show, Bob Tullio, Automatic Merchandiser and Vending Market Watch contributing editor, had the chance to chat with vending and micro market thought leaders to get their thoughts on innovation and technology in the industry.

Focus on Unattended Retail

More than ever, the convention focused on the opportunities in unattended retail, the technology that can help drive that channel, and product diversity that can help operators compete with delivery services and outside competition.

Expanding Horizons

One observation from the NAMA Show – it’s all about expanding horizons.

“If you want to identify one of the defining characteristics of this show, I think the idea of micro market operators, and even suppliers, expanding their horizons to serve smaller population sites, plus a whole array of semi public and public locations — that would be a clear takeaway,” said Arthur Siller, SVP of operations and business development at Evergreen Refreshments. “The technology that was displayed from 365 Retail Markets and others really shows us that technology solutions exist and can help operators to expand their offerings and elevate their business.”

Be Willing to Change

John Sans, director of sales at Davians, said it felt like industry operations were slowly getting back to normal.

“The show felt like pre-pandemic. Talking with colleagues made it clear we aren't alone with our challenges, and we all were affected the same way. How we worked through the pandemic to keep our doors open was great to talk about. It was therapeutic,” Sans said.

As for a show takeaway, Sans explained that is crucial for operators to be willing to change. Not change who they are, or their brand, but how they serve the customer. “It might be using a different coffee brewer, or small micro markets, or smart markets ... or hybrid markets/cafeterias. Our customer over the last two years has changed, and operators must be willing to change as well,” Sans added.

Imagination Way!

The Imagination Way exhibit at the entrance of the NAMA Show put an exclamation point on the new range of opportunities that can be supported by technology. NAMA described the exhibit as an immersive experience of fully functioning prototype environments that demonstrate how consumer interactions with retail and self-service are shifting. Imagination Way offered multiple examples of unattended solutions for:

  • Multi-family living
  • Travel and transit settings
  • Hospitality and lodging
  • Senior living
  • Customizable workplace convenience
  • Café and beyond – featuring a robotic barista

Bringing Back Lost Sales

Dave Mandella, VP of sales at American Food and Vending,said that his NAMA Show takeaway revolved around the diversity of locations we can serve and the offerings we can provide as an industry.

“Unattended retail is the next convenience store. Our industry will take over convenience a bit, pulling away a lot of the sales that we are currently losing. We can offer delicious hot food, excellent coffee and reward programs,” Mandella said.

Educational Sessions for Unattended Retail

The well-attended educational offerings took a forward look at achieving micro market and unattended retail success.

The pre-conference session, “Taking your micro market to the consumer,” looked at the growing capabilities of micro markets. The session was led by Michael Lovett, CEO of Capital Provisions, and Shane Burleigh, vice president of business solutions at Canteen Canada.

Bob Tullio’s pre-conference session, “Selling Convenience Services: Strategies of Elite Performers,” offered a strong focus on strategies that help operators land large micro market locations.

Malcolm McAlpine, Business Manager, Branded Snacks, at Mondelez International, presented a program entitled, “The Importance of Consumer-Facing Promotions in Micro Markets,” teaching operators the importance of consumer-facing promotions in micro markets.

Innovation, People, Partnership, Diversity

Commenting on his observations from the 2022 NAMA Show, C.J. Recher of Five Star Foodservice said that he was impressed by the innovation, personal contact, sense of partnership and the diversity of the industry that was on display.

“The face-to-face, in-person connections were irreplaceable. So immensely valuable,” Recher said.

“Product suppliers and technology providers seem to truly have a partnership mindset and willingness to listen to what we need. As operators, that’s truly what we seek – we don’t want to be pigeon-holed with a product or technology that doesn’t fit our operation or isn’t helpful.

“The face of our industry is changing both in diversity of age, but also other key demographics. People with many different educational and professional backgrounds are now doing business in our industry. By no means has the industry ‘made it,’ but the influx of diversity of thought and demographic background is creating a better, smarter, stronger future for the industry.”

At the Mondelez Booth: Route Driver of the Year and a 110th Anniversary

The Mondelēz International booth was a busy place during the 2022 NAMA Show. As the 110th anniversary of the OREO cookie was being celebrated, BostonbeaN’s Kamden Mauser was honored as the 2021 Route Driver of the Year.Mondelēz International and Automatic Merchandiser revived the popular recognition program that honors hardworking, innovative field personnel serving the nation's vending, micro market and OCS clients. Mauser was proud, yet humble as he accepted the award.

Atlanta in 2023

Start making plans to attend next year’s NAMA Show to be held May 10-12, 2023, in Atlanta. The annual trade show offers an opportunity for operators to see the latest solutions and technology for vending, micro markets and office coffee service.

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