Give them what they want: Operators offer frozen vending

Differentiating a vending company is no easy feat in today’s high-tech, fast-changing market. Most operators are centreing their focus on deploying cashless payment technologies and expanding into micromarkets to keep ahead of the competition. But in their quest for that “wow” factor, many overlook a not-so-new category that locations still clamour for — frozen food vending — which can play a pivotal role in landing and retaining accounts.

Operators who provide the service say decision-makers at all types of businesses and public sites like the novel appeal of ice cream vending and seek them out, especially since fewer competitors offer it. And when they offer to add frozen convenience foods to the mix, it often seals the deal, not only for the frozen venders, but also for snack and drink machines.

Greg Greenwell of US company VendsWell had no intention of pursuing the frozen segment when he ventured into his own business three years ago.  But he saw sales volume double when he broadened the selection in his dedicated ice cream venders to include microwaveable convenience foods.

“Locations are very happy with ice cream and then when we give them food, they see it as a huge plus,” he said. “Adding food has also made the machines more appealing to a wider market demographic and given me an advantage from a competitive standpoint.”  VendsWell’s frozen menu includes microwaveable meals suited for every part of the day, ranging from ham and cheese Hot Pockets to pizza.

“Food sales are not seasonal, so it helps maintain steady sales year-round,” Greenwell noted. “We have a good selection of ice cream facings, which customers love, and food offsets off-season sales, with makes it a viable proposition in the four or five months when the weather is cooler.”

Several machines on the market provide for a combined frozen and fresh vending solution. One of these from Crane Merchandising Systems acquired the A La Carte line with its purchase of Automatic Products International, which by design is a satellite machine. It is offered in three configurations: refrigerated, frozen and frozen novelty (ice cream). The only difference between them is the shelf and spiral configurations to accommodate the difference in products.

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