Incoming AVA Chair DAVE WARD (pictured) says the AVA is only as good as its membership…
When you stop and think about it, the AVA has some notable achievements under its belt; but if you were to eavesdrop on the vending industry, the whispers you’d hear would, most likely, be along the lines of ‘what has the AVA ever done for us?’
We Brits rarely excel at self-promotion, in fact we tend to see it as rather vulgar to blow one’s own trumpet. So let’s take a look at the AVA through an outsider’s eyes.
Rosie Murray-West is Deputy Personal Finance Editor at Telegraph Media Group, working across the Daily and Sunday titles. She took a personal interest a story concerning the forthcoming introduction of new coins into the UK’s currency. She begins her piece by explaining that the new coins are slightly thicker and that users of vending machines, pay-phones and parking meters might be seriously inconvenienced. Then, significantly, she writes: ‘The new coins were originally meant to be introduced last year, but were delayed because of a campaign from the vending industry.’ Not the pay phone industry, not the parking meter industry, but the vending industry.
That’s how a top, broadsheet journalist who is a key influencer in her field views the status quo: without the vending industry’s intervention, the general public, whose financial well-being Ms Murray-West champions, would have been lumbered with all kinds of woes. As for us, there’d have been jammed coin mechanisms to deal with, frustrated customers, vandalism, frantic clients…
Anybody who’s ever worked in PR will tell you that getting your story, your campaign or your issue taken seriously by a journalist with the clout of Ms Murray-West is no mean feat; or that to have her credit the AVA for a change in policy that directly affects not just all UK residents, but also anybody else in the country with a pocket full of small change, is a notable achievement by the AVA.
We might choose to ignore it, but the AVA is not only standing up for the industry’s interests in Whitehall and elsewhere, it’s actually punching considerably above its weight.
The AVA has also been working hard to alter public perception of vending. Vending machines have been demonised in certain quarters, particularly in education. I’ve written before about the fact that vending is the whipping boy in the ‘struggle against obesity.’
The AVA’s response has been wide ranging. ‘Being Healthy’, an event created by 24 Vend and embraced by the AVA, attracted speakers to AVEX from across the world, offering insight on how healthy vending is successfully working for their businesses and highlighting some of the opportunities this growing trend offers vending operators.
At the same time, the AVA engaged with University College Birmingham to produce ‘healthy meal’ concepts created specifically for vending machines. If it was a gamble, then the AVA hit the jackpot. UCB has high standards, recently playing host to Michel Roux Jnr for a BBC TV production and delivering a never-ending stream of top notch young chefs into the catering industry; and John Erlich, Chair of the Guild of Food Writers, was as startled as any other judge at the quality of the fare produced.
UCB’s engagement with vending and the astonishing results of their endeavours may not add to the average vending operator’s bottom line any time soon, but the media coverage that’s been generated by the initiative really is helping to change the public’s perception of vending.
Michelle Berriedale-Johnson is a hugely influential writer on issues to do with food, through her widely-read blog ‘Foods Matter’. After the Being Healthy event at AVEX, she posted an article called ‘Healthy Vending: Is There Such A Thing, in which she wrote: ‘…over the last 40 years, most vending machines have come to be owned by the makers of either fizzy drinks, crisps or chocolate bars, the boxes themselves have become synonymous with the unhealthy junk food that is now castigated by food regulators and banned from many public outlets.’
However, having fallen under the spell of AVA board member Gillian White, she envisages a potential boon for thousands of UK people who require ‘free-from’ foods to stay healthy. She wrote: ‘we see vending machines not only as outlets for healthy foods but as immensely useful outlets for safe and tasty ‘free-from’ foods, so rarely on offer when, as a ‘free-from-er’, you are out and about.’
That’s great PR. It’s a blog that will be read by a vast group of people who believe that there’s nothing in a snack / bottle / food machine for them, and so they pass vending by.
Once more, this behind the scenes work will not deliver an immediate sales windfall to swell the coffers of UK operators; but it has been the catalyst for people to think again about what we do, making them wonder if maybe they ought to think of vending machines as ‘angels’ rather than as ‘devils’.
The AVA is also seeking to strengthen its influence by announcing links with other organisations, such as the ‘water’ body, the EDWCA and exchanging memberships with the FMA (Facilities manager’s Association). These and other relationships will provide the vending industry with a number of strategic opportunities to develop.
Paul Theobald will be stepping down as AVA Chairman at the end of the month after three years of faithful service. He has steadied the ship and, in my view, set the right course and he deserves our appreciation.
My overriding goal as I take up the office is to continue to strengthen the AVA and to grow the support of the members. We want people to view AVA membership as a benefit, as an organisation whose sole aim is to support their efforts.
The AVA is a membership organisation, the more people join, the stronger it gets; the stronger it gets, the greater the benefits for everybody. The AVA is only as good as its membership. Do, please, think about what you could do to help make the AVA the very best organisation it can be. That’s what I’ll be doing and that’s what all of us at the AVA will be doing.
PS: Did ‘What has the AVA ever done for us?’ remind you of the scene in ‘Life Of Brian’ in which John Cleese’s character asks ‘what have the Romans ever done for us?’ Me too. Maybe you too can’t resist watching it again… (1059)