Worldwide, 150 billion coffees are drunk at vending machines which is more than one in ten and almost 11% of coffee produced globally.
Every consumer on average takes 5 to 15 minutes purchasing coffee 166 times a year. In a year, 28 hours equals more than 1 day of life spent in front of a vending machine.
While sipping coffee in front of the vending machine, we socialize, exchange jokes and points of view about time, holidays, children, football, public transport strikes, weekend programs, political and economic situations.
The coffee break makes work better, alleviates stress and makes us more productive.
Today, after the main utilities (electricity, gas and water), the most numerous installations are coffee vending machines and many other products that are now everywhere.
The vending operators, although we often do not notice them, enter every day in almost all companies and workplaces, in communities and in many public spaces such as railway stations, petrol stations or dedicated areas, to offer an irreplaceable and indispensable service.
To be clear, “vending” is the English technical term used to identify the automatic distribution channel, that is, all the sales and supply of food and non-food products, through an automatic vending machine.
A vending machine is a machine that, upon payment, delivers products and/or services at the request of the user, 24 hours a day, in public or private areas, in dedicated places or installed as a supplement to traditional activities (such as pharmacies and tobacco shops).
Vending machines supply mainly hot drinks (coffee, chocolate, tea) and cold drinks (mineral water, canned drinks, fruit juices) and snacks (or sandwiches and ready meals). They also supply newspapers, cigarettes, tickets, prepaid cards, coupons, fresh milk, fuel, washing and cleaning vehicles, personal items, hotel and motel rooms.
In recent years, the range of food products offered has widened and as a result the consumption has also increased: today vending machines sell both packaged snacks as well as fresh products (stored in modified atmosphere) such as sandwiches, focaccia, fresh fruit or fruit juices without preservatives.
Now the vending represents a sector of “away from home” catering.
The products distributed through vending change a lot from country to country. For example, in some countries they also sell alcoholic beverages, while in other ones (as in Italy) this is prohibited by law.
In Europe, the vending market is constantly growing stronger.
This is confirmed by data from the EVA:
- the total turnover in 2017 reached 15.87 billion euros (+3.3% compared to the previous year) and the installed machine base rose to 4.07 million units (+1.6%);
- in Europe there is a vending machine for every 190 inhabitants. A number that varies from country to country, sometimes sensibly: if in the Netherlands the ratio is 1 for every 60 inhabitants, in Turkey it is 1 every 1.920 inhabitants;
- over 80% of distributors are installed in the workplace;
- Poland and Russia are the two fastest growing countries. In the last 5 years the number of installed machines has grown by +7.8% in Poland and +5.7% in Russia;
- vending operators have increased the price of drinks, especially hot ones, by virtue of a quality offer that starts with coffee beans;
- the number of cashless payments increases, mainly with contactless credit cards and smartphones.
These numbers clearly identify the dynamism of the sector.
And what about Italy?
In the European scenario, Italy is the leading country in terms of the number of vending machines installed (over 810 thousand) that supply coffee, drinks or snacks every day, followed by France (590 thousand), Germany (545 thousand), England (421 thousand).
According to Confida (Italian Automatic Distribution Association https://www.confida.com/) which is the only Italian association representing the entire supply chain in Italy:
- the automatic distribution sector (means automatic + single-serving) is worth more than 3.5 billion euros with over 11.1 billion consumers in total;
- consumption of the automatic market in 2017 grew by +1.31%;
- distributors are mainly distributed in industry (37%), followed by commerce (15%), private offices (14%), the world of school and university (10%), hospitals (8%), public offices (7%) and places of transit (5%) and leisure (4%);
- every year about 30 million Italians consume from a vending machine;
- coffee is still confirmed as the best-selling product from vending machines: in 2017 there were almost 3 billion (2 billion and 768 million) dispensing, that is coffee consumed at the vending machine, up +0.59%.
Italian vending, world excellence
But few people know that vending is one of the great excellences of “made in Italy”.
Italy is the international market leader: the main producer of machines for automatic distribution and payment systems are Italian, the most prestigious products (starting with roasted coffee) are Italian and the vending operator companies operating in Italy have professionalism and business models considered the most advanced in the world.
All of this has allowed Italy to develop a standard of service which other European companies have emulated.
The sector in Italy employs over 30,000 people.
The Italian industry of vending machines is a cutting-edge sector for technological development and design, and it is also a practical example of excellence in Italian export technology.
The numbers confirm that 70% of vending machines for food and drink produced in Italy are sold abroad: in Europe, where the largest market shares are concentrated, but also South America, Asian markets and the Middle East.
Vending in Italy, as we conceive it today, begins in 1963 with a machine (the Faema E61), a product (coffee beans) and some pioneers who decided to invent a new profession (the vending operator) by installing these distributors in some big industrial companies.
Since then, Italian vending and its progress has been and still is inextricably linked to these 3 different professional figures:
- a manufacturer who builds a vending machine
- a manufacturer who makes available the products
- a vending operator who purchases machines and products and installs them for customers, guaranteeing the service.
Over the years, this chain has been joined by retailers and service companies, but the essence of vending remains always and strictly dependent on this indispensable “trinity”.
The final consumer
However, there is a fourth fundamental figure that is part of the vending supply chain: the final consumer.
Initially, operators were concerned with meeting only the needs of their direct customers. Today, however, the conquest of locations and their proper management (good human relations, careful price policy and guarantee of assistance) are no longer sufficient.
It is necessary to understand and respond consistently to the needs of the final consumer, offering him a range of products and services to which he is really interested.
The strategies of vending companies must be oriented towards satisfaction and loyalty of the final consumer which is the true and only interlocutor of automatic distribution because only he can recognize and appreciate its value.
The consumer looks for more quality.
The consumer who buys at the vending machine today expects service standards and operating practices beyond the normative indications and prerequisites to which the vending operator must comply: from the ease of use of vending machines (or the presence of instructions for use) to the efficiency of payment systems (with a change-giver), from the guarantee of cleaning and hygiene of vending machines to the timely technical assistance (especially in the case of machine downtime), from the professionalism and correctness of staff (employees with a uniform or identifying clothing) and customer service to the reliability, regularity and planning of the service and maintenance.
Last but not least, attention to consumers’ needs and expectations and constant commitment to improvement.
A good cup of coffee, even from a vending machine
The market of coffee at the vending machine is also growing thanks to the capacity of the sector to satisfy the new tastes and emerging consumer habits.
Today in Italy as many as 84% of the coffee in the vending is delivered through the transformation of ground coffee into beans at the moment, a clear sign of the search for ever-increasing quality.
The choice of coffee, the quality of the water, the setting and maintenance of the machine are the main factors to bear in mind for a good cup of coffee. Not only at the café.
A good cup of coffee, even from a vending machine, starts from the choice of the right coffee blend.
Hey vendor, in choosing the coffee blend for your business, pay attention to:
- clearing and selection: allows you to reduce operation and maintenance costs of the grinder, to avoid machine downtime and the subsequent loss of money;
- uniform granulometry: to reduce grinding time of the vending machine, but most of all to ensure better and consistent quality in the dispensing;
- slow roasting: to enhance the natural qualities of taste and aroma of the coffee and to provide a softer more uniform bean that is ground more easily;
- air cooling: creates a lighter product, that with the volumetric doser means higher yield;
- dry and less oily product: means reducing the frequency of filter replacement and therefore avoiding additional cost of equipment and labor;
- taste and body in the cup: achieve customer satisfaction by providing the true essence of coffee without the need of additional milk or sugar in order to cover a flavor too strong, bitter or woody, reduces milk and sugar consumption for further savings;
- constant quality (in the supplies): allows you to provide consistent quality for consumers (especially in office and company settings), balanced taste, sweet aroma and creamy body, which boost consumer loyalty resulting in increased consumptions;
- perfect for “long coffee”: experience the Italian traditional coffee that the whole world loves, even when the coffee is not an espresso.
Hey vendor, choose a reliable partner like SpecialCoffee and the coffee bean blend, GRAN CREMA BLUE ESPRESSO VENDING!
New coffee trends
The pursuit of quality goes hand in hand with the need for differentiation.
New trends in consumption are emerging ever more markedly and the need to distinguish oneself from the past is developing.
Today’s consumer is much more informed, demanding and curious to experiment with novelty, especially outside the home. So often in the coffee break he looks for a richer, more intense and satisfying experience.The enthusiast of the traditional espresso is making room for the modern coffee lover, a consumer with more complex features, a demanding figure who looks beyond the (vending) cup, who travels and who, while supporting the uniqueness of the Italian espresso, confronts other traditions and shows great openness towards alternative methods of preparation with respect to the traditional Italian coffee culture.
Therefore, the espresso coffee too, a symbol of Italian automatic distribution, has declined in the new trends: sustainable coffees, XL drinks, cup-to-go drinks, gourmet drinks and more and more processed coffee.
For the vending operator, expanding, varying and making attractive the offer of hot drinks means investing in new vending machines but also being able to request a higher mark-up and, consequently, guaranteeing a more interesting marginality.
A growing trend towards consumption outside home and customization could make it appear that vending is penalized because technology of the machines requires inevitable development and implementation times, but above all because often the demand is too niche for a popular and mass means as the vending machine is.
However, Italian vending has always had a vision able to face the new market scenarios with innovative capacity and reactivity and is proving capable of following the new trends and the new needs of consumers with a wide and appreciated offer from a heterogeneous target.
It has already happened
The new generation of vending machines are increasingly smarter: thanks to IoT digital technologies and touch screens, they completely transform the consumer experience allowing us to offer a customized product by mixing the basic ingredients (coffee, milk, cocoa, topping, grains) creating gourmet drinks, even in the XL version or to be taken away with the comfortable cup-to-go.
In addition, thanks to the internet connection, not only can you choose the products via your smartphone, but also pay for them and pick them up at the first available vending machine.
You can make combined offers: a cappuccino, a brioche and a small bottle of water.
At the same time, the telemetry systems allow the network to control the machine remotely and detect in real time if there are no products or if there is a fault.
Finally, the mobile payment, through the app, allows you to be able to talk to the consumer, analyzing their preferences.