Micro markets – the future of vending?


There is no doubt that our food and drink culture has changed over the last decade and consumer expectations of both vending technologies and vended products have risen.



The relatively recent arrival of the “micro market” to the work place has provided the consumer with variety and convenience. A micro market is effectively a 24/7 unmanned self-checkout small shop, designed to offer a range of diverse fresh food and beverage products in a pleasant environment.

Thirst Link has seen some impressive examples of micro markets and how they have evolved over the years and, for some of our clients, they will be just the ticket. Each one can be tailored to a specific work environment, offering a highly flexible retail solution and, at the same time, the client will enjoy increased sales revenue and employee satisfaction, at decreasing operating costs.

They do away with the age-old question of how and what refreshments to provide a workforce out of hours, that is more appealing than an indifferent cup of coffee and a bag of crisps. Wasted working hours queuing at a nearby fast food store will also be a thing of the past.

From the articles written by our American cousins, micro markets (or “breakroom markets”) are revolutionising the vending and foodservice markets, or are they?

We know some UK operators have bought into the trend, but we haven’t seen the meteoric “rise and rise” of micro markets as they seem to be seeing in the States. Is the UK vending industry missing a trick here, or are we just slow to catch up?

Thirst Link plays its part in charity event

Thirst Link was delighted to be able to support one of its clients, Bidfood, at their 2018 Key Supplier Golf Day.

The golf was played at the exclusive Notts Hollinwell Golf Club and those that played had an enjoyable yet challenging course in perfect weather conditions.

All the supporters helped Bidfood raise just over £42,000 which will be distributed amongst its key charities.

Apparently, over a period of 10 years, with the help of its supporters, the team has managed to raise a massive £294,000 – which is a fantastic achievement and a real commitment to good causes.

Mars orbits away from coffee

The Lavazza Group has announced an agreement to acquire Mars Drinks, including the Flavia and Klix systems, from Mars Inc. The transaction is expected to close by the end of 2018 and is reportedly worth around $650 million.



Under the terms of the agreement, the Lavazza Group will acquire Mars’ coffee businesses in North America, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Canada and Japan, including its related systems and its production facilities in the UK and the States.

“This acquisition fits perfectly within our international expansion strategy, the objective of strengthening key markets, as well as the pursuit of having an even closer relationship with end consumers,” according to Lavazza Group chief executive officer Antonio Baravalle. “Indeed, this acquisition strengthens the Lavazza Group’s position in the office coffee services (OCS) and vending segments, which offer considerable opportunities for growth and development.”

CEO of Mars, Grant Reid said: “Mars Drinks has been an important part of our business for many years, and while it’s always hard to say goodbye to great brands, valued associates and friends, we believe now is the right time for a change. We are confident this decision will better enable long-term success for the drinks business with Lavazza – a company that shares our values and has a dedicated focus on beverages – and will allow the business and its associates to continue to thrive.”

Where does cashless vending go next?


A new report that looked into data from hospitality businesses, predicts that by 2021, the number of payments made electronically will overtake the number of those made in cash.




This has obvious repercussions for the vending industry, which must embrace the new payment methods – using card, contactless or mobile devices – but not forgetting that some people still like to pay in cash. At the end of the day, all payment methods must be simple and quick if businesses are to remain competitive.

There is much talk about the rise of “cryptocurrencies”, such as Bitcoin, and what part they will play in vending in the coming years. In fact, one cashless payment company has already launched their cryptocurrency payment system for vending machines.

The company acknowledges that “it may take a little time” for consumers to take-up this method of payment, but is confident that the enhanced privacy and direct transfers are likely to win consumers over, as the technology becomes better known.

Thirst Link on the look-out for what’s new for the HoReCa market

EVOCA has recently introduced two new machines for the HoReCa market which, in our opinion, look pretty smart.

The Krea Touch is indeed a good-looking machine, created by “a subtle fusion of decorative lighting, chrome and black gloss”. It has a user-friendly interface and a 7” HD touch screen shows the consumer a comprehensive drinks menu, as well as allowing on-screen branding and customisation. It also has the capability to play videos, both in stand-by mode and to accompany specific drinks selections.

When things go wrong, the machine has a built-in wi-fi feature which, when connected to the Internet, can be set to send an email alert if there is a machine fault.

EVOCA’s second new machine is the Necta Kalea, which the company is marketing as their answer to having “an authentic, Italian coffee experience, complete with fresh milk”.

As with the Krea, the machine appears to be both user and operator friendly and it too boasts a 7” HD touch screen and video capability.

easyJet flies into the vending market

It has been interesting to read about the new kid on the block, easyCoffee – part of the easy group of brands, including easyJet. The coffee chain was launched back in 2016 and has had rapid growth since.

easyCoffee has recently received a £10m boost from an investment company which will allow the business to move forward with its ambitious growth plan to roll out 800 vending machines nationally in the next year.

CEO, Nathan Lowry, commented that: ”Vending is a highly profitable business driven by brand recognition. This investment is an endorsement that the easyCoffee brand stands for a quality product and service at a value price”.

We are used to seeing Costa and Lavazza vending machines at our garage forecourts, shopping malls and leisure centres, but I am sure it won’t be long before we see the distinctive orange and white coloured machines at these venues.

easyCoffee has pitched itself in the market “below Costa and Neros, but above Greggs”, using quality Fair Trade products, but with drink prices being in the region of 20-25% cheaper.

To date, we haven’t personally tasted the coffee so can’t comment on its quality, but there is no reason to doubt the company’s claim that they are selling “great coffee for less”.

Still true to this day….

The Thirst Link strap line, “A First for objective vending advice… A Thirst for quality solutions” created by our founding directors Roy Girt and David Bate back in 2005, is still true to this day. We think it sums up rather well what we do.


We are a “one stop shop” for Vending, Water & Catering advice and, because we have no ties to any supplier, vending operator, contract caterer or equipment manufacturer, we are ideally placed to provide truly objective advice to our clients.

The Partners’ expert knowledge extends to all Vending, Catering and related services, including all types of vending equipment, POU water units and cashless systems etc. even down to ensuring that the best tasting teas, coffees and other products are dispensed, to suit a client’s requirement and budget.

Most senior managers of successful companies prefer to focus on their key business tasks and non-core services tend to be pushed to one side. And that’s where we come in. Armed with the most up to date industry knowledge, we then assist our clients through what can be a challenging process, to select the most appropriate machines and service provider. But don’t take our word for it – we are proud to share case studies and testimonials on our website where we have done “a good job”!

Costa commits to recycling



There is more good news on the recycling front.  Costa has announced that it will recycle up to 500 million coffee cups a year by 2020.  This is the equivalent of its entire yearly sales of takeaway cups.


As we know, these coffee cups can be recycled BUT they must be collected correctly and sent to the right recycling plants.  Easier said than done.  But Costa announced that they will pay to make sure takeaway cups are collected and sent to those paper mills which can recycle them – a supplement of £70 to the waste collectors for every tonne of cups collected.

We currently have three paper mills in the UK that can handle these cups, and with this pledge from Costa, the number of cups recycled will jump from 14 million to 100 million this year!

Dominic Paul, MD for Costa said, “At Costa we want to guarantee our customers that if they throw their cup into the right recycling bin it will get recycled, and this announcement is a major step towards that happening.”

What is the NaturALL Bottle Alliance?



The NaturALL Bottle Alliance is a research consortium formed by Danone, Nestlé Waters and Origin Materials to accelerate the development of 100% renewable and sustainable bottles. It has now been announced that PepsiCo is to join this alliance.


The goal of the alliance is to create packaging solutions which significantly reduce the carbon impact of plastic beverage bottles, and the group is currently attempting to produce a PET bottle made purely from bio-based materials such as cardboard and sawdust.

A statement from the alliance says that “the consortium has already produced samples of 80% bio-based PET for a pilot scheme, and expects to achieve a 95% bio-based bottle after the construction and upgrade of a production site in Sarnia, Canada is completed in 2020”.

Once this milestone has been reached, the alliance intends to make bottles commercially available to the food and beverage industry.

Coca-Cola makes a move on coffee

The Coca-Cola Company has bought British coffee chain Costa from Whitbread in a deal worth £3.9 billion.

By purchasing the UK’s largest coffee chain, Coke is looking to expand beyond fizzy drinks and wants to gain access to Costa’s coffee “platform” across Europe, Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa.


Costa currently operates just over 4,000 retail outlets, its Costa Express vending operation, for-home coffee formats and a roastery.

Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey said: “Costa gives Coca-Cola new capabilities and expertise in coffee, and our system can create opportunities to grow the Costa brand worldwide.  Hot beverages is one of the few segments of the total beverage landscape where Coca-Cola does not have a global brand. Costa gives us access to this market with a strong coffee platform.”

He went on to explain why Coke had chosen Costa: “Because Costa is a good fit – and the best way – for Coca-Cola to add a global coffee “platform” that will complement our existing system. Let me be very clear about why I use the word ‘platform’ and not ‘brand’. A platform means Costa isn’t just one thing. Not just a brand. Not just a retail operation. Not just vending. Not just a coffee roaster.

“A platform is all of those things and more. Costa is a platform with a great supply chain in coffee, a world-class roastery, a strong retail presence and a vending system. Costa has strengths in many countries and in many key distribution channels of the coffee business.”

Costa’s Managing Director Dominic Paul said: “Costa is a fantastic business with committed and passionate associates, a great track record and enormous global potential. Being part of the Coca-Cola system will enable us to grow the business farther and faster.

“I would like to say a huge thank you to our customers and to everyone in the Costa team who have helped us build the business to this position, and I look forward to the next exciting chapter in Costa’s vision of Inspiring the World to Love Great Coffee.”