20CENT Meets Erwin Wetzel from the EVA
Today in a new episode of 20/CENT Meets, I had the opportunity to have a chat with Erwin Wetzel, General Director of the European Vending & Coffee Service Association. A little reminder to some of you, the EVA is a not-for-profit trade association established in 1994, representing the interests of the whole European coffee service and vending industry vis-à-vis the European Union Institutions and other relevant authorities or bodies.
To start with, maybe you could remind us about the roles and goals of the EVA, and why the association is extremely relevant to the industry?
“As any trade association our main goal is to gather the interests of our members and to express them as a single voice to the relevant stakeholders. Even for larger companies it is always an asset to be part of a trade association, because it gives credibility, but also weight to the message you want to deliver. Indeed, EU institutions are always more inclined to open their doors to associations than to single companies and that’s why it is important to have a robust structure with a highly skilled staff. By being this European voice for the vending and coffee service industry, we are able to inform decision-makers about our industry, to lobby legislation and to get the members’ interests promoted. Even in a very challenging situation like the current pandemic it is crucial for companies to benefit from the support of the EVA in order to restart the business after the various lockdowns. In addition to our lobbying work, we provide various market reports which allow to analyse market trends and to plan the future investments, we share relevant industry information, we give guidance about how to comply with upcoming legislation and we develop standards to make our industry more efficient and competitive. Our ultimate goal is to shape the industry of tomorrow. Finally, we also want to make sure that our members can meet key industry peers, network and find new business opportunities, because this drives innovation and new market opportunities.”
Could you give us an overview of the efforts that the EVA and the industry are doing in terms of sustainability and environmental impacts?
“As we await the shift to low carbon electricity generation, manufacturers have already made this a priority to leverage the latest innovations and design energy-efficient vending machines that consume less. For example, new vending machines now include energy saving devices to minimise energy consumption during the night or when the space hosting the machine is closed.
Since the cooling systems in our refrigerated vending machines make use of refrigerant gases, our sector is also committed to minimising direct refrigerant emissions. The EU F-Gas Regulation has already led to the availability of lower Global Warming Potential (GWP) alternatives to HFC refrigerants. The rapid uptake of lower GWP options has enabled our sector to switch to more climate-friendly alternatives such as Carbon Dioxide or Hydrocarbons. The sector has also benefited from targeted research from an EU-funded R&D project looking into more efficient cooling systems for vending machines operating on natural refrigerants, to help the industry transition to the new requirements laid down in the F-Gas Regulation.
Furthermore, sensor technology has been integrated into hot drinks vending machines so that consumers can choose to consume a beverage in their own reusable cup, rather than a single use cup. Consumers are also reminded of this environmentally friendly choice via information labels placed on machines, for example through an ongoing project in Germany, or even in the buildings of the European Institutions in Brussels.
Finally, we also care about the end of life and recycling of vending machines. Vending machines are designed on a modular basis, enabling equipment handlers to identify and extract some items from the machines for easy recycling at the end of their lives, and to be directly replaced. However, the end-of-life requirements in Ecodesign will continue to improve this aspect of the design.”
Obviously the COVID-19 crisis has had a serious impact on the vending industry. Homeworking, the unfounded fear of touching machines are of course some of the factors that play a role. However, do you see a light at the end of the tunnel or maybe opportunities for operators and suppliers?
“Vending operators have had severe losses since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, going from -20 to 80% compared to the 2019 turnover. The vast majority of the companies have not been able to pursue their activities because either the clients’ site was closed, or machines were shut done by their clients to avoid gathering of people during coffee breaks, or employees were simply working from home or on furlough. Since 80% of the 4.2 million machines are placed in the workplace, the financial consequences have been quite dramatic. Also, with the unfounded belief that using cash for payments or the selection buttons on the vending machine could be a source of contamination, the mistrust vis-à-vis our machines has increased.
The majority of vending operators expect a permanent decrease of revenue by 20% in future, because working from home will become structural in many companies and also because will commute/travel less. However, there are some opportunities, because employees might consume less in the workplace, but they may want more choice or extra quality which would end up in a premiumization of the business. In addition, vending corners or even micro markets can replace canteens which are closing and ever less demanded. For many suppliers it is the chance to support now even more operators in the digital transition and to provide new tools that will boost their business.”
In Europe, many associate the vending industry with coffee or hot drinks dispensers. When we compare to other countries such as China or the US, automated stores are popping up but they don’t seem to be a trend in our region. Do you think the movement will eventually pick up in Europe?
“It is true that the business in Europe is very much focused on hot drinks and in particular coffee. It is also a reason why European manufacturers are famous for their quality professional coffee machines which are exported around the world. The number of automated stores or micro markets as we call them was still very marginal a few years ago, but the pandemic has certainly accelerated the trend, because currently there are already hundreds of them. These stores, but also smart fridges or smart vending corners could be an excellent solution to offer meal options to employees in the workplace”
A lot of innovation in the industry are linked with technologies (e.g. payment solutions, data analysis, facial recognition…). In retail, one of the trends is the one of seamless experience. Is this also something that plays a role in the mind of operators when developing innovations?
“Here again the pandemic has accelerated the digitalization of the industry and as an organisation we can only welcome it, because you need to pick up the latest technologies to remain competitive and to keep the attractiveness. Ever more machines are equipped with either touchscreens to command the machine, but now even touchless solutions are existing for people who prefer no contact at all. Telemetry is expanding as it permits a more efficient management of the machines and electronic payment solutions in all their forms are more and more installed, because the industry wants to guarantee seamless payment experience and also satisfy the younger generation which is more digital savvy.”
Would you like to share any additional comment or thought to conclude this little chat?
“This year one of our main objective will be to raise awareness among decision-makers that our industry is suffering from the measures in place to contain the pandemic and that financial aid as well as a smart and fair legal framework is required to give the companies the tools to take the opportunities and get out stronger from this crisis.
Indeed, we want to play an important role in the out-of-home segment.”
Eva European Vending And Coffee Service AssociationErwin Wetzel 20cent Meets