This is Unwrapped: A Food Service Podcast by SandenVendo America; exploring the history, innovation and technology of the food service industry.
Glass Front Vending Solutions Take Center Stage
Mike Weisser, President and CEO of SandenVendo America, understands the GFV-9 front-loading vendor's importance as a mainstay in the foodservice industry. Since the inception of the glass front vending machine in 1972, technology continues to innovate and change the way people interact with self-service food and beverage devices.
SandenVendo’s GFV-9, likewise, carries on this tradition of advancement, innovation and change to stay relevant to today’s consumer needs. Weisser unwrapped the GFV-9 for a more in-depth look.
“Many different driving forces changed the landscape of cold-drink beverage vending over the years,” Weisser said. “It's consumer trends that shape what the vending machine is going to be, or what it is going to do, or how it is going to interact with the consumer.”
So, if consumers drive where the vending machine industry is going, what are the recent changes fueling today's vending machines?
“Over the last decade, we’ve seen a tremendous shift to healthier products, healthier beverages and a wider variety of products,” Weisser said.
If front glassing vending machines are the product showcase, how important is the product packaging, and does this importance play a role in vending design?
The Need For Touchless Vending Goes From Future To Present During COVID-19
Touchless technology for vending machines isn’t new, but it’s possible you’ll be seeing it for the first time soon at a vending machine near you. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many companies to think about surfaces that needed to be frequently cleaned. Vending machines can be those surfaces, but as Vagabond CMO Juan Jorquera noted, there is an easy solution that has been around for some time: Going touchless. “The technology is available, and it has been available and compatible with 80%-90% of the machines already out in the field, “Jorquera said. “Partnering with SandenVendo makes that scalability and that deployment even easier because they do have hundreds of thousands of machines out there already, and we’re able to tackle the right machine in partnership with the operators, with the accounts that know they need touchless.” With the pandemic and its quarantine orders also sending vending machine sales plummeting, the demand for new machines hasn’t been high. But Mike Weisser, President & CEO of SandenVendo, says the good news for operators of the 4.3 million vending machines in operation in the United States is that it’s easy to retrofit existing machines. “The overwhelming majority are capable of having this technology upgraded onto those units,” Weisser said. “So, once we consider not just new production units, but the ability to deploy on existing units, we have a little bit clearer image of the scalability of touchless throughout our markets.” American consumers may not be ready for machines like those in China with facial recognition, but paying with their phone and picking the product up from a drawer may be exactly what they need to feel comfortable returning to their previous habits when getting a snack or a drink.
Unwrapped: Goodbye, Expiration Dates? Kuraban Food Storage Cabinets to Extend Consumables' Shelf Life with Robert Sparks and Mike Weisser
The KuraBan refrigerated food storage unit may look like a typical commercial freezer, but looks can be deceiving. Robert Sparks, product engineer at SandenVendo America, and Mike Weisser, President, and CEO of SandenVendo America, unwrapped this latest product innovation for host Tyler Kern.
“The KuraBan technology deploys non-thermal electric field energy,” Weisser said. “It allows you to extend the shelf life, depending on the food, 10-15 times its normal shelf life.”
“We’re putting 5,000 volts of electricity in through the stored food product. It keeps the molecules within the food moving," Sparks said. "This doesn’t allow the product to freeze while stored in below-freezing temperatures.”
One of the most significant benefits of this process is the food is always fresh.
As for applications, Weisser believes the KuraBan cabinet could benefit the restaurant industry, where extending food storage life can add up to cost savings in reduced spoilage.
This technology will allow restaurants to dry age beef in-house without the expense of purchasing it already aged and without the volume loss that typically accompanies the dry-aged process.
“You can reap 100% of the finished product and the high margins of the aged-beef without any of the waste,” Weisser said.
Why Advances in IoT Will Change Vending and Foodservice Forever with Paul Yang and Mike Weisser
Internet-connected devices have changed almost every industry, but their influence has been slow to reach vending and foodservice.
That’s changing now, with the vending industry deploying many IoT devices and changing the future of vending forever.
“I look at it as the connection between man and machine and what we do with it to enhance efficiency or enhance the consumer experience – how we use it to enhance safety,” said Mike Weisser, President and CEO of SandenVendo. “That ability is what IoT means to me in how we utilize that and deploy it throughout the equipment we manufacture in order to make other companies more efficient or enhance their customers’ experience when they make a purchase.”
That experience is changing now that IoT technology is becoming more prevalent. Vending machines in the United States have looked very similar over the last four decades, but with touchscreens and other technologies becoming more prevalent, consumers are being reached in a way they never have been before.
“With IoT, we are looking at cashless and are taking it one step farther. We’re talking about contactless. With this current technology, we’re able to utilize near-field communication. Before you approach, the vending machine – through the interaction of NFC – is able to communicate with your cell phone if you allow it,” said Paul Yang, General Manager of Aaeon Electronics, “In this case, the machine would know you’re approaching. Then you select your products through a touchscreen or with the app on your cell phone.”
There also may be a scenario in which a user approaches the vending machine and yawns, triggering suggestions for a caffeinated beverage like a soda or an energy drink, or is sweating after a run, and the machine serves up its rehydrating options.
Some of those advancements may seem far from the current reality, but there are smaller tweaks, as well – things like making suggestions that aren’t in the machine but could be delivered to the customer’s house the next day, or simply serving a relevant advertisement based on selection.
Your 3 p.m. snack break may never look the same.
The Impact of COVID-19 on the Foodservice and Vending Industry with Mike Weisser and Bruce Bickford
As the pandemic struck the United States, one of the first industries to feel its wrath was the foodservice industry. The majority of foodservice workers are out of work today due to the effect of SARS-CoV-2, more commonly known as COVID-19.
Mike Weisser, President and Chief Executive Officer at SandenVendo America, and Bruce Bickford, Senior Director of Corporate and International Sales at DALB, talked about the impact COVID-19’s having on the food industry and what their businesses are doing to help during this unprecedented moment in the 21st century.
DALB is a global parts provider for the vending industry, creating everything from vending fronts to graphic fronts, tops and sides, and other thermoformed pieces needed for vending machines.
When the pandemic struck and help was needed, DALB took swift action to transform their production into making products that could aid in keeping people safe. They are now producing protective face shields and polycarbonate barriers to protect checkout counters in grocery and convenience stores.
DALB is also producing informational decals stores are using to instruct customers on new safety procedures. As part of DALB and SandenVendo’s long-standing partnership, Weisser said they helped spread the word about DALB’s capabilities to assist with these safety and protection measures.
“While we wouldn’t normally provide or sell a cashier counter shield,” Weisser said, “that is something DALB has made available to us, and we are making available to the convenience store industry.”
Weisser recognizes the need for his company to stay open and continue to supply the needs of the convenience store industry during the pandemic.
“These businesses provide essential items to people at a time when it may prove challenging to get certain products elsewhere,” Weisser said.
The Evolution of Vending Machines
From the first dispensers in ancient Rome to today’s cashless machines offering everything from candy to salads, the vending machine’s evolution is a fascinating journey. Mike Weisser, President and Chief Executive Officer at SandenVendo America, spoke about vending’s past, present and future.
In the past 25 years, Weisser’s seen some significant transitions in the industry. The move from 12oz beverage cans to 16 and 20oz bottles was a major shift in vending. And another change was the transition from carbonated soft drinks to bottled water and even sports drink offerings. Cashless systems and pay-by-phone apps are the latest advancements changing the vending machine industry.
Weisser noted that, throughout much of vending’s history, the technology behind it didn’t change much, but around the year 2000, the advent of robotic delivery systems began to transform the industry.
“Vending machines used to be pretty simple. Product packaging was more of a delivery mechanism, and now it’s become a marketing tool,” Weisser said.
All of the different packaging changes, including size, shape, weight and material, impact the delivery mechanisms of vending machines and keep Weisser’s company on its toes.
Consumer changes Weisser sees today are in healthy food, snacks and beverage options.
“These requests are causing us to put more thought into the delivery systems to handle the variances in the packaging of these items,” Weisser said.
How vending handles storing and distributing a salad is different than how it dispenses a bottled beverage.