A new voice, with a fresh take on Vending

Jonathan brings to the AVA an impressive, 20 or so years of commercial experience, a significant proportion of which is in the finance, leasing and vending markets. His first role in the vending industry came as a specialist with Anglo Leasing and subsequently with Schroder Leasing and Siemens Financial Services, where he managed sales teams that were responsible for funding in excess of £200m of machines into the vending sector over a number of years. More recently as consultant to a number of vending companies, he has specialised in working with small to medium sized businesses and large food brands, advising and mentoring, while introducing new technology into the vending market.

Always an active supporter of the AVA, Jonathan sat on the South East Region committee for 10 years and has been a regular contributor to the vending trade magazines.

Commenting on his appointment, Jonathan said: “It is not often that an opportunity presents itself that feels 100% right, but the role of the AVA CEO is one of those. In 1987 my introduction to the vending industry started a real personal passion for the industry and the way it is perceived. I now really want to help the AVA to return to its pre-eminent position as ‘The Voice of Vending’ and the champion of all those who work within our industry. Our market has changed and the AVA needs to develop its service and offering to members in order to meet the challenges of today.”

Jonathan has a real sense of energy about him and is not afraid to voice an opinion, or challenge the views of others.

Healthy Eating

He went on to explain “We have just challenged research by The British Heart Foundation (BHF) because it was attributing the obesity problem to vending. The BHF said it was ‘categorically not’ attacking vending, but the lack of choice in the machines. They would not, however, define choice, nor would they define healthy. When we asked if we could work with them to raise awareness about what constitutes a healthy balanced diet, they declined on the basis that this would be seen as an endorsement of vending – very frustrating indeed!”

VI asked Jonathan why he thought the Industry came under fire so often in the press. “Vending is an easy target. By attacking vending, politicians can be ‘seen’ to be doing something about the obesity problem. But it is not that simple,” he said. “We are in a recession; convenience food is cheap, in families where both parents work, being able to eat quickly and cheaply is key; the real cost, however, is to our health.

Jonathan commented: “The socio economic climate is not something that we as an industry can do anything about, but we all have a role to play in improving the overall health of society. There are 5.5bn lunchboxes eaten every year in schools, only 1% of which are perceived to be healthy. If you move a vending machine, the point of purchase moves with it, as does the control. In schools for example, if you remove confectionary machines, crisps and chocolate will still be eaten, but the children will have simply got it from somewhere else. The consumer needs to be given a choice in what they eat and learn moderation.

“The real issue is that, nobody will define the term ‘healthy’. Snacks represent 1% of our calorific intake. Vending represents 5% of snacks bought in the UK. So that’s 5% of 1%, which means that 99.95% of the problem will remain, even if vending is removed. Up until now the industry has been reactive rather than proactive. We have to be on the front foot. The AVA has to be the face of vending. By talking to operators, suppliers, politicians, health groups and press we can work together. On forecourts and garages it is all larger products, bigger bags – we are an instant gratification society. We want quicker broadband speeds, our digital pictures immediately…”

Europe – Where does the AVA sit within the wider European context?

Jonathan explained, “I don’t think people truly understand the work the AVA does in conjunction with the European Vending Association (EVA).

Much of the legislation that is introduced in the UK starts in Europe and by having a dedicated representative on the Board of the EVA and close links with UK government, we are well placed to identify the important issues likely to affect the UK vending industry. To put it into context, there are over 60 current European directives, either in discussion or nearing completion, likely to impact on the vending industry across Europe.

The AVA has a key role to play in ensuring that they do not restrict consumer choice or impose unfair financial burdens on the industry.

What about the membership?

We asked Jonathan if he planned to look at the AVA’s strict membership criteria.

He responded: “With 38 bands for operators and 24 for suppliers, there is a rule that says you can’t become a member of the AVA until you have traded for a year. My view is that the AVA is there to help new businesses. We need fresh blood coming through the Industry. More regional meetings will be introduced and we are also looking at reinstating some of the social functions.”

The Industry

Talking to the press back in November, Jonathan commented that the industry had changed and VI was keen to find out what he meant by this.

“We have all seen that there has been wide consolidation within the Industry and there has been a shift in consumer tastes and habits. There is more of a coffee culture in the UK now, a trend set by the likes of Starbucks and Costa. 12oz vended cups were created to meet the demand for a larger coffee and compete with the high street brands, at a much cheaper price, so the Industry is changing in terms of style. The Vending operators in London, for example, have healthy shelves, delivering what the customer wants. As an Industry we need to take more of a retail-led approach, suggesting snacks that might go with a drink and offering a discount on it as a combined purchase.

“On the downside, we are seeing the number of In Cup machines diminishing and there are less can vendors too; mainly because of the number of those that have been removed from schools.”

Vision for the future

Finally, we asked Jonathan to tell us more about his vision for the future of Vending to which his response was clear: “Should anyone in the UK want to know anything about vending, come to the AVA. We would also ask that specifiers only use AVA members. Vending can solve a number of issues for the delivery of products to consumers and more brands need to embrace that. The AVA is the collective voice of vending and its voice is getting louder on the issues that affect our industry.”

To contact Jonathan, just call his office on 0208 661 1112 or email jonathan@ava-vending.co.uk