CHICAGO, Aug. 30, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- The new age of vending has arrived, 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 the National Automatic Merchandising Association (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 Gratitude Tour will visit seven cities in 2011, according to the following schedule:
Mon., Sept. 12
11 a.m.-5 p.m.
New York City
Thurs., Sept. 15
South Street Seaport
10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Thurs., Sept. 22
11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Tues., Sept. 27
2nd and Congress
11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Wed., Oct. 5
Westgate City Center, Glendale, AZ
12 p.m.-6 p.m.
Tues., Oct. 11
11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Thurs., Oct. 13
Union South, University of Wisconsin
11 a.m.-5 p.m.
"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.
"While this type of technology is not yet ubiquitous, it absolutely represents the future of vending," added Mathews. He pointed out that the Gratitude Tour also features machines containing healthy snacks, in addition to machines that can "talk to each other" using high-tech telemetry to bundle multiple purchases from multiple machines.
"This technology means consumers can buy more than one snack and several beverages at the same time from different machines," Mathews explained, "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.
Leading consumer product suppliers supporting the Gratitude Tour include PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods, Mars, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Dole, Hershey's, Kellogg's, Nabisco, Wrigley, Frito-Lay, Snyder's-Lance, Jack Links, General Mills, Cadbury, Pepperidge Farm, Nestle, AdvancePierre Foods and others.
Twenty state-of-the art vending machines are being provided by Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Starbucks/Seattle's Best, Kraft, VendEver Cotton Candy, Canteen Vending, Crane Merchandising Systems and U-Select-It. In addition, unattended retail markets by Company Kitchen and Avanti Systems will be on display, as well as a vending payment technology exhibit by MEI. Other vending industry leaders supporting the Gratitude Tour include G&J Marketing, Canteen Vending/Compass Group and Vistar. (See detailed fact sheets on featured machines and products for more information.)
Admission to Gratitude Tour events and all products at the events are free to the public. "We want people of all ages to attend our events, experience the new machines and enjoy the giveaways," Mathews said. In addition, local bands and musicians will provide free entertainment, and Tour-goers can stop by the social media tent where anyone can enter a fun and easy Facebook contest to win cash prizes (visit http://www.facebook.com/vendlovewin to learn more).
*Using digital technology, PepsiCo's Social Vending System enables any user to gift a friend by selecting a beverage and entering the recipient's name, mobile number and a personalized text message. The gift is delivered with a system code and instructions to redeem it at any PepsiCo Social Vending system.
About The National Automatic Merchandising Association
NAMA, 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. Its membership is comprised of service companies, equipment manufacturers and suppliers of products and services to operating service companies. The basic mission of the association, to collectively advance and promote the automatic merchandising and coffee service industries, still guides NAMA today as it did in 1936, the year of the organization's founding.
SOURCE National Automatic Merchandising Association