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Quality of a quick cuppa

31 August 2012

How are vending equipment suppliers adapting their offerings to suit the modern workplace? Tim Fryer asked a few of the leading players

For an overview of the market trends I started by asking Patrick McCaffery, National Sales Manager EIS-Elior Vended Solutions, who looks after both Café-style opportunities and vending. He believes: “Café-style opportunities are the most requested service. Today’s culture of high quality cafe/coffee shops within the high street is being replicated throughout the workplace. However, I would also mention there is a big switch and has been over the last five years from free standing vending machines to the smaller bean2 cup coffee machines. Even though a number of these are free issues our customers will still happily visit and pay for that barista service.”

McCaffery still believes that vending does have its place, not least for out of hours vending. He sees that the latest trends in machines including: “the introduction of LED lighting having machines which are more energy efficient and chillers, fridges rated A+ and A++. Many manufactures now also concentrate on the looks of their equipment is no longer acceptable to have an ugly machine in the corner. There is also a need to compete with the high street. Every coffee machine manufacture now has the option to go large and introduce the 12 oz cup I’m not completely sure why but in the UK market we like our coffee milky and in big cups!”

This trend towards replicating the ‘high street experience’ is a recurring one with some of the providers in the market. Nowhere has the fashion for quality – at home and on the high street - been more evident than with coffee and this has inevitably had an effect on the vended coffee offering.

According to Andy Dixon, sales manager for vending at Kraft Foods UK, 80 percent of the machines in the UK are located in the workplace sector and traditional floor standing systems are in growth. “Consumers are increasingly driven by quality and vending operators are under growing pressure to provide an experience closer to “coffee shop” coffee as tastes and expectations change,” commented Dixon. “Customers have been trading up to Premium and Super Premium brands’, and we are focussed on offering high quality coffee to the vending market. Convenience is key, and a vending operation can have real benefits for employers in boosting employee morale.”

Matt Lane, Category Business Lead for Vending at Nestle Professional concurred: “Vending remains a key solution to offering consumers a convenient and simple to use coffee offering within a multitude of different channels and consumer outlets. The growth of cafe culture in the high street has meant that the consumer is more discerning in their demands for a quality beverage experience but still a value for money approach particularly in the workplace. As such vending is ideally placed within the market place to continue to capitalise on its strengths of speed and convenience but at the same time must upgrade the end cup experience to drive consumption.”

Both Kraft with Kenco and Nestle with Nescafe have strong coffee brands to build their offering around. Earlier this year Kenco Professional launched Kenco Millicano, which combines a blend of premium freeze-dried coffee with finely-milled roast and ground coffee beans, delivering, claims the company, a taste that is closer to roast ground ground with the convenience of instant. Kenco Millicano is available to operators in 300g vending bags for use in vending machines and counter-top dispensers. The product is also available as part of the Kenco2Go range, along with decals and fascias. Dixon said: “Customers want the reassurance of retail brands and the quality they bring. Millicano meets this demand by offering a quality product and trusted brand which is delivered efficiently and at fantastic value for money, and is helping to challenge perceptions and raise expectations of what a hot beverage from a vending machine should be.”

Equally Nestle see the opportunities of having a strong brand. “Nestle Professional brands such as Nescafe and Nescafe Gold Blend are ideally placed to support this requirement and when combined with a skimmed milk powder, deliver a fantastic beverage experience,” said Lane. “Nestle Professional is launching a new premium hot beverage solution in late 2012, the NESCAFE Milano lounge. This solution allows consumers to choose from a wide range of hot and cold beverages from an interactive colour touch screen. The customisation includes a choice of skimmed and semi-skilled milk, and also the capability to choose the strength of your coffee and three different cup sizes. This new solution takes consumers choice and the quality to a new level, and will also provide the customer with enhanced levels of information and capability as the new solutions can be fully telemetry enabled.”

Lane went on to say that technology will play a huge part in the future – not just touch screens but QR (Quick Response) codes, cashless payment and near field technology all playing their role. These are aspects that provide key components in the products developed by Westomatic, who are already utilising them to good effect.

Westomatic’s Managing Director is Richard Brinsley, and he sees his company’s latest product as having a dual role as an information centre! “The Sigma Touch is all about meeting the latest trend – touch screen interactivity!” claimed Brinsley. “All the latest gadgets, the iPad, phones, computers etc are all touch screen, leading the way for improved usability. We have utilised the touch sensitive features with a range of carefully designed menus to cater for a wide range of users, including an accessibility menu with all buttons below the 1.2 metre guideline for wheelchair access. The menus are also presented in four languages as standard – great in our multi-cultural environment!”

“As well as usability the Sigma Touch also offers opportunity for on-screen branding, advertising and messaging facilities – adding vital revenue opportunities and essential in-house messaging for Facilities Managers.”

Quality, cost and convenience are not the only considerations. Every FM these days needs to weigh up the environmental/sustainability impact of everything and vending equipment is no different.

While Kraft’s Andy Dixon was witnessing ‘higher rates of refurbishments and repositioning machines to make the most of changing trends without breaking the bank’, Patrick MacCaffery of Elior thought there was a more concerted environmental movement: “There is a big trend now to refurbish equipment and prolong its life, not only from a cost point of view but also customers are thinking green. There are also a number of companies which do offer additional energy saving devices which monitor movement in front of the machines constantly. If there is no activity for a period of time the machines power down the chillers not fully but enough to offer energy savings. Companies are also moving away from buying in bottled water instead opting for systems which where you can produce filters fill bespoke branded bottles on site, just think of the carbon miles saved!”

However, one company that has gone a step further down this road is Options Management who has introduced recycling units to go alongside vending equipment. Paul Ure, Managing Director, commented: “Clearly everyone looks at costs against performance, reliability, quality and consumer satisfaction as top priorities, especially for managers that hope to survive this challenging period with a sustainable catering service. In addition there is also a growing requirement to show ethical credentials from fair trade traceability to recycling and low impact on carbon footprints.

“Options Management have always seen these elements of service as a top priority. We have, as an example, invested in developing packages that deliver high street quality drinks through low energy vending machines and delivery vehicles. To enhance our offer we also provide a recycling machine that rewards consumers for bringing back their used containers for recycling. To support our clients we collect containers, process and forward them for converting into a secondary raw material, closing the product loop from supply to recovery and reuse. This reduces litter and creates a clean, contained, central recovery point for cans, plastic bottles or cups. Our packages are low cost and in some cases cost neutral, helping to reduce the burden and cost of waste management whilst giving employees/customers a real feel good feeling for recycling and helping the environment. In certain situations, a contribution to selected local and national charities may be organised, diverting some of the value from what otherwise would be waste, often destined for landfill. “

So there we are, there are many positive reasons to reconsider vending, particularly in hot beverages, where quality has been driven up by customer demand.

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