CHICAGO -- The new age of vending has arrived, according to the National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA), and the industry is taking its machines, products and technology on the road to showcase what the new consumer vending experience looks and feels like.
Dubbed "The Gratitude Tour" and sponsored by NAMA, the traveling exhibit is designed to say thank you to loyal users of vending, especially Generation Y users (ages 18-29), who were shown in recent research to prefer vending over convenience stores and grocery/drug stores for snacks and cold beverages. Thousands of free products will be given away at the events.
"The days of digging for coins and waiting for your candy bar to drop into a bin are being replaced with a much more exciting, interactive experience," said Dan Mathews, executive vice president and COO of NAMA. "We now have machines that look and act like giant iPads, offer on-the-spot nutrition information and dispense bananas without a single bruise on them. Plus, who could have predicted even a few years ago that we could get fresh-spun cotton candy from a machine untouched by human hands, or 'gift' a Pepsi to a friend who is miles away?"
Mathews also cited as an example the Diji-Touch machine, developed by Kraft Foods, Crane Merchandising Systems and Samsung Electronics. The Diji-Touch uses touch-screen technology to display a digital image of a product inside the machine, allowing consumers to interact with an enlarged, 360-degree view of the product (including all nutritional information and other product details) before making a purchase.
"This technology means consumers can buy more than one snack and several beverages at the same time from different machines," Mathews said, "and pay for it all at once with the convenient swipe of a credit/debit card, stored-value card, or mobile payment device."
In a recent NAMA research study, the majority of Gen Y respondents said they would choose vending over other retail options if all the options were equidistant. They also indicated a strong interest in new technologies and products emerging in vending. The research was instrumental in designing a high-tech yet consumer-friendly experience for the Gratitude Tour that all ages can enjoy.
The Gratitude Tour is the latest initiative by NAMA to capture consumer attention and educate the public about vending and all that it delivers today. Tour visitors can also learn about how vending is increasingly offering the convenience of cashless payment options, features technology that ensures greater machine reliability, and is often a better value than grocery or convenience stores.
The broader NAMA program aims to create a "vendialogue" between the industry and the public, encouraging consumers to actively communicate with the industry about products they would like to see offered at vending, plus new and different locations for vending machines.
The Gratitude Tour will visit seven cities in 2011, including:
- Boston: Mon., Sept. 12
- New York City: Thurs., Sept. 15
- Atlanta: Thurs., Sept. 22
- Austin: Tues., Sept. 27
- Phoenix: Wed., Oct. 5
- Minneapolis: Tues., Oct. 11
- Madison, Wis: Thurs., Oct. 13
The National Automatic Merchandising Association, based in Chicago, is the national trade association of the food and refreshment vending, coffee service and foodservice management industries including on-site, commissary, catering and mobile.