For more than a month, the vending machines have been missing from my office building’s dining area. My co-workers and I were alarmed because we didn’t know when the machines would be brought back, or even, if they would be.
I cringed working late at night knowing that no refreshments could be had conveniently, which normally were just a staircase away. While I, like many consumers, have taken to bringing their beverages of choice from home, if I happened to desire another drink or forgot one that day, I was out of luck. Then, late one night in December, I saw the illuminated vending machines’ reflected in my office building’s windows. The machines were back with the same beverages, but new graphics decorated their exteriors. “Ice Cold Drinks,” one machine glistened with its $1 bill acceptor all a glow. “Merry Christmas,” I thought, and I looked closely and saw that the drinks were a nickel more.
While I suffered through the absence of my office vending machines last month, I also wrote this month’s Channel Strategies report on new technologies for the vending industry (see page 46). While the vending channel continues to struggle, the good news is that U.S. consumers widely accept vending as a viable channel for purchases. While vending machines typically are priced higher than other channels, the convenience of a vending machine is often worth it.
The key here is convenience. Vending machines must be placed where consumers need them with the products consumers covet. New payment options, including the acceptance of larger bill denominations and cashless payments, are helping to break vending out of its downward slump, those in the industry say. In addition, new software technology is on the way to help bottlers figure out what to put in the machines to reduce out-of-stocks and increase sales.
As Craig Lewis, payment solutions product marketing director at Crane Merchandising Systems, Stanford, Conn., told me for the article: “Vending is always an impulse process. No one says, ‘I couldn’t get this soda yesterday, so I’ll get two today.’ You either make the sale or lose it forever.”
On a different note… I also wanted to welcome back Jennifer Zegler as managing editor of Beverage Industry. Jennifer previously served as the associate editor of the magazine, and returns after completing a master’s degree. You will find her enthusiastic about covering the beverage industry, and I know she will be an excellent addition to the magazine. If you would like to drop her a note, you can reach her at email@example.com.