Old leopard, new spots

When Vending Paris opened its doors at the end of October, few knew quite what to expect, for the familiar old ‘DA Vending Expo’ had changed its name and logo for its 10th anniversary.
In the event, it was very much a matter of recipe as before, with about 190 exhibitors, a conference programme running on three of the four days of the show, plus features on the environment and sustainable development, the winners of the French vending innovation competition, and a ‘Green Route’ – a good, if familiar-sounding idea!
Most, if not all, of the familiar exhibitors were to be found in Pavilion 4 of the Paris Expo, although there was a feeling that stand sizes and design budgets had been cut – probably a sign of the economic times we all live in, although the Paris show never did rate at the top end of the major European vending events in terms of investment in large, ornate stands.
Looking around the show, VI’s impression, and that of several of the Brits we spoke to, was that there was little that was particularly new – maybe not surprising considering the ever-increasing number of vending exhibitions dotted across Europe nowadays.
In terms of making a splash, Bianchi Vending repeated its ‘love’ theme, displayed so dramatically at Venditalia earlier this year, with its fresh brew coffee and hot or cold drinks and refrigerated food vending machines. The sheer size of the N&W stand made it one not to miss, and it was permanently crowded. Among the many exhibits were the new (ish) Samba snack and food machine; the Diesis can and bottle vendor; plus the Canto and Venezia hot and cold beverage machines. Table-top specialist Etna showcased a big selection from its current range, including the Vega model which offers a variety of hot drinks with fresh beans and/or instant coffee, and the simplistic Callisto Choc machine which uses liquid concentrate.
Sielaff featured its new, eye-catching Barista Uno – which it describes as a self-service coffee bar, comprising numerous features including two coffee grinders and a 20-litre fresh milk chiller. Also on the stand was the Piacere table-top coffee machine, which also uses fresh milk.
The Azkoyen exhibit included the Tempo hot beverage machine, in instant and espresso variants, as well as its Mistral and Sienna ranges. Fellow Spanish manufacturer Jofemar made a feature of its Vision series of glass-fronted machines, featuring a unique spiral-free vending system ‘easyFlex’ which is claimed to increase capacity per channel by 25 per cent.
Saeco was kept busy demonstrating its new Atlante beverage machine plus its ‘rotating plate’ technology, also seen at Venditalia and a winner of one of the innovation trophies in Paris; while Crane Merchandising Systems had a modest, but busy, stand showing its espresso, soluble and fresh-brew coffee machines and refrigerated food vendor.
There was a considerable number of novelty and gum ball machine manufacturers in evidence, but pride of place for something completely different had to go to the Côté Pain hot baguette machine, from French company pac Vending, and another of the innovation trophy winners. Users are treated to a video while the unit forms, cooks and wraps each baguette – which is perhaps just as well, as it does take a little while!
Payment systems specialists were predictably out in force in Paris, with the likes of MEI and Coges having busy stands, while manufacturers of ingredients and vending products were promoting their biggest brands.
One exhibitor that caused many a visitor to pause on their way around the show was Davi & Cia, which was offering the use of its elegant Millenium multi-function scale which, in addition to calculating your height and weight, also gives blood pressure, body mass index and measures the percentage of body fat. Results are presented as a print-out.
The organisers of Vending Paris were confidently expecting more than 10,000 visitors over the four days of the event which, judging by the numbers we saw on says two and three might just have been achievable – at the time of writing, the official figure was not available.
What was interesting was that the Paris show was confidently arranged as a four-day event, while AVEX 2009 has been compacted into two days. Of course, the French show has a history of busy Saturdays, as provincial operators tend to make the trip to the capital for the exhibition. When AVEX tried Saturday opening some years ago, it was less successful.
Also, while a number of exhibitors made it known that Vending Paris called for a notably smaller budget than the British show, there were still signs of unsold floor space.
What all of this could suggest is that there may be a gap developing between the UK vending show and the other leading European ones.  2009, with AVEX in June and the German EuVend in September, may reveal more.