Problems Or Opportunities? Either Way, We’re In Pole Position To Help Our Customers

Hello again!

At Automatic Retailing, we can do a lot more for our customers than just fulfil their orders. We can help them to turn ‘problems’ into ‘opportunities’ and ‘opportunities’ into ‘gilt-edged commercial advantages’.

Let me explain by looking at two topics that are hot potatoes for vending operators right now – the potential that’s incumbent in the digital age and the forthcoming Sugar Tax.

At the risk of you falling off your seat when you read this, I reckon digital screens on vending machines are just about the most important development we’ve seen in our sector since Adam was a lad. I know that’s rich coming from a bloke who, until recently, didn’t know his WhatsApp from his elbow, but think about it: until now, when were vending operators able to communicate with, (or advertise to), their customers, right there at point of sale?

OK, we’ve had promotional decals on machines for donkey’s years; but screens that can broadcast video in sparkling HD? That’s something altogether new and exciting. Having this capacity to advertise at point of sale isn’t just a huge plus for operators; it’s brilliant for the brand owners, too. That’s why many Big Names in FMCG are choosing to test new products in the vending channel. It’s very, very cost effective, compared with the old ways of doing things.

Years ago, when a Big Name was launching something new, they’d choose a TV region such as Granada, Yorkshire or Tyne-Tees; they’d run an advertising campaign and (to show retailers how serious they were), they’d advertise in The Grocer, extrapolating their regional investment into what was called a ‘national equivalent spend.’ (Usually in the millions). If the test launch was a success, they’d follow it up with a national roll-out of the product.

They don’t have to do it that way any longer. Alternatively, they can choose to test the waters nationally, via vending machines. Instead of mega-expensive TV air-time, they can run their glossy commercials right there, on your screens; in front of hungry (or thirsty) customers who are ready to make an on-the-spot purchase.

It’s not just advertising either: the ‘digital revolution’ has enabled some canny operators to introduce dedicated apps and loyalty programmes, to attract new, tech-savvy vending customers and what’s more, to keep them. I think that’s brilliant.

Some operators are ahead of the game, others have their toes in the water; the rest are playing catch-up. Whichever category you fall in to, we’re in pole position to help you make the most of the opportunities the digital era brings. That’s because we have very close relationships with both the brands and you, our customer. For want of a better expression, we can act as ‘match-makers’.

As for the Sugar Tax, which comes into force on 18th April next year, I can tell you from my meetings up and down the country that it’s a major worry for lots of vending operators. They don’t really know how the levy will impact on their sales or their profitability.

Once again, we’re in pole position to help you navigate into this New World. We’ve been working very closely with UK’s leading drinks manufacturers, both to understand what the impact of the tax will be and to get a clear picture of the new-wave of products that are being introduced to counter it.

Now’s the time to be testing these new products. You don’t have to wait until the levy lands: why not begin to introduce them now; get them established before the tax axe falls? We’re ‘in the know’, we have the knowledge to advise you as you plan your strategy.

You don’t have to wait until the levy lands…

All things considered, it means that these are very busy times for all of us at Automatic Retailing. Me and the lads are pulling out all the stops to get round our customers, so we can advise them on what’s hot and what’s not; and reassure them that, despite the changes, this is not the end of vending as we know it!

I know it sounds glib because you hear it said so often, but we really do see Automatic Retailing as a partner of our customers, not just a supplier to them. And why not? After all, if our customers are doing well, we’re doing well.

Thanks for reading, and think-on: if there’s anything we can help you with, get in touch at or contact us on 0191 238 0400.

Meanwhile, back to work…

Gan canny

John Crichton





The Exciting New Packaging Of 9NINE Super Seed Bar Is Here! Prepare For Take Off!

Let’s start our introduction to this fabulous new re-design by considering some facts.

The UK is eating fewer ‘sit down’ meals and more ‘on the go’ snacks. That’s why consumers are demanding healthier choices. They’re making decisions based on the health benefits snacks can provide. As a result of this, whilst the mainstream cereal bar category is in decline, healthier cereal bars are experiencing 32.4% value growth.

Seed based products are seen as ‘a big signifier of health and slow release energy’. The company behind 9NINE Super Seed Bar is 9BRAND Foods Ltd. Business Development Manager Amie Trigwell puts it in a nutshell: ‘ these days, it’s all about seeds’, she said.

Seeds? We were amazed that seed product sales are already worth £46M a year. What’s more, the category is growing at the rate of 11% year on year. That’s higher than crisps, nuts, savoury and healthier biscuits. Blimey…

But is your mouth watering yet? Would you try a product made of seeds over something, well… more conventional? Maybe you wouldn’t, but if you did – you might be pleasantly surprised: 9NINE have made seeds taste delicious!

Having said that, for a healthy snack to become a mainstream success it has to preach its message not only to the healthy-conscious ‘converted’, but also to the ordinary Jane or Joe, (that’s you and me), who’s hungry and wants something tasty and satisfying to calm the craving. That kind of evangelism costs money, but the good news for vending operators, (we know you demand profits from every spiral), is that 9NINE Super Seed Bar clearly has the budget backing to think BIG and make a compelling impression.

This is thanks to the significant seed capital, (sorry), that’s been injected by ethical investment company ‘Bridges’, as Amie confirms: ‘the investment has given us the opportunity to really develop’, she said. We’ve been able to re-position the brand to appeal more strongly to the healthier snacking consumers, who want more than ‘natural’ and ‘healthy fuel’, they want something that also promotes mental energy.

The advertising and PR campaign that’s rolling out from 9NINE HQ in Chester in support of the brand is, well… gob-smacking. There’s a major consumer poster campaign in the offing that’ll hit consumers on the London underground, the national rail system and elsewhere. (The brand is already all over social media). 9Nine products are a hit: you’ll find them in WH Smith Travel, Costa and even on Easy Jet flights (not to mention major retailers such as Tesco!) and now, the company’s attention is turning to vending.

‘There are operators out there already offering healthy choices and they’ve enthusiastically embraced 9NINE Super Seed Bar’, Amie said. ‘Our mission now is to demonstrate to all operators that there’s great and growing demand out there for healthier snacking options, and that we have the marketing clout to highlight the benefits of our brand and in so doing, grab a significant share of this burgeoning market.’

Amie is referring to the company’s forthcoming ‘Play On’ campaign, the focal point of which will be the establishment of a playground in London designed entirely for use by adults. There is a correlation between the 9NINE Super Seed Bar and play. Play, it seems, ‘shapes the brain and invigorates the soul’, and that pretty much mirrors the intention of 9NINE Super Seed Bar.

Grown-ups frolicking in an urban playground? You don’t need to be a media guru to appreciate that the papers, the radio and even the TV are sure to pick up on what is, after all, a great story. It won’t belong before ‘ordinary’ consumers are aware of the brand’s health-giving properties and eager to give it a try.

Vending operators need to be ready to reap the benefits of this PR whirlwind.

‘Once bitten, 9NINE Super Seed Bar consumers are smitten’. Amie says with a smile. She has a point: aside from the fact that this is a product with all manner of health and well-being benefits, it’s delicious. Consumers are no longer required to choose ‘taste’ over ‘health’: In 9NINE Super Seed Bar, they get both.

Some earlier ‘healthy’ products suffered from lack of exposure and ‘worthy’ packaging which, whilst they highlight the benefits of a product, fail to stand out either on shelves or in spirals. This product hasn’t fallen into that trap: the product looks great; the new design really leaps out at the consumer.

We’ve never before seen a healthy brand with such an exiting marketing and promotional campaign behind it. At AR, we’re ready to maximise the advantages that will bring – and we recommend that you do, too.

‘We want to make healthy snacking available in as many places as possible to as many consumers as possible’, Amie concluded. ‘People are increasingly demanding healthier snacks on the go these days and vending machines need to reflect that to maximise sales. ARN have recognised this trend and with their support, we’re determined to succeed in the vending marketplace.’

You can get the full story on the 9ninebrand web site. Don’t miss out on this one!

9NINE are exhibiting at AVEX. Check them out!





‘The Big Kitchen’ Ready Meal Range Goes Down Great At Planet Vending.

By Ian Reynolds-Young


The marketing video says it’s ‘the UK’s first hot food vending solution’ and The Big Kitchen range, by Malton Foods, is available exclusively from Automatic Retailing.

It seems to tick all the boxes: it’s an ambient product, so it doesn’t need a chilled vending machine. It’s only available through the vending channel, so there’s no chance you’ll find yourself undercut by the local discounters.

There are seven varieties and each one is a complete meal solution. Each one is ‘perfectly portioned’ to provide ‘tasty, balanced nutrition’; they’re all less than 350 calories and they’re ready to eat after 3 minutes (max) in the microwave. What’s more, consumers will be pleased to see that there are no artificial colours, preservatives or flavours lurking within The Big Kitchen range.

Shelf life isn’t a problem: all the meals are good for a full 12 months. I won’t get all technical on you, but it’s all down to an ingenious process of slow, high pressure steam cooking. Not only that, the compact packaging is ideal for presentation in vending machines.

All of which sounds great, but…

If you’re like me – an old cynic – you probably imagine that the one thing this tidy little range lacks is ‘flavour and texture’.

The proof is in the eating of course and that’s why the team at PV put the product to the test with a special ‘Big Kitchen’ lunch. We ate the meals just as they came. No proper plates; just the container and no knife and fork; just the supplied ‘spork’.

I went for the lamb hot pot. The sliced potatoes on top were thin and delicious and the lamb and vegetables right on the money. I’m not comparing it with the fare at Le Manoir Au Quat’Saisons by any means, but it was tasty, piping hot and it smelled wonderful. The little plastic spork did its job. At three in the morning, in the middle of a shift, this could make some poor soul feel much, much better.

Mrs R-Y, (that’s her in the main picture),  was equally appreciative of the chilli con carne whilst Mr M enjoyed the chicken curry. Although, typically, he’d have liked it to have been ‘a bit spicier’. (Like he needs more spice in his life?!)

All that’s needed to support the vending machine is a microwave oven and, hey presto! An instant solution to out-of-hours hunger.

Sales have begun to build and you have to conclude that that’s down to ‘word of mouth’, to personal recommendations between colleagues; because once you’ve tasted these Big Kitchen meals, you’re converted. At least we were.

We’ve suffered some indifferent products in recent years where ‘box ticking’ has led to compromise and ultimately to an unsatisfactory eating experience. The Big Kitchen hasn’t fallen into that trap.

We’d recommend, when you launch The Big Kitchen at your key locations, that you start off with a bang with a bells-and-whistles sampling campaign. That would speed up ‘word of mouth’ exposure like nothing else…


* The Big Kitchen is available exclusively to the UK vending trade via sole distributor, Automatic Retailing (Northern) Ltd. For further details, and to place your order, contact

Ian Reynolds-Young is Planet Vending’s Editor

Cadbury’s Match & Win Will Push Our Premier League Warehouse Team To Its Limits

The BIG news is that the army of operators who replenish the UK’s vending machines every day can win BIG footy prizes in Cadbury’s BIG promotion, ‘Match and Win’. Which is all well and good – except it means a lot of extra work for all of us at AR and in particular, our premier league warehouse team… Our very own Cadbury’s Heroes!

Is it just us, or is it only five minutes since the last footy season finished? Not that we’re complaining, mind: we’re pretty much football daft here at AR Headquarters. In fact, right now, the ‘muscle-bound hunks’, (it says here), we call our warehouse staff, are getting in some heavy-duty, pre-season training.

That’s because this season is starting with a great big chocolatey BANG.

It’s all down to our friends at Mondelez – that’s Cadbury’s in old money – and their sponsorship of The Premier League. They’ve come up with a promotion called ‘Match and Win’. It kicks off on 4 August and runs until the end of October – and it’s all footy based.

Every day, they’re giving away ten personalised Match Day Experiences (for two people); every week there are 50 pairs of match tickets, 200 Premier League replica footballs and 2- wait for it – 200,000 free chocolate bars.

All BIG numbers, we think you’ll agree, but here’s the daddy of them all: 80,000,000. That’s the number of packs that will carry the promotion. That’s a lot of chocolate.

Match and Win

Ha’way the lads!

As promotions go, Match and Win is about as big as they come; and Mondelez has form when it comes to successful promotions. Remember ‘Joynormous’, back in 2015? That saw sales volumes rise by 10% and a year earlier, ‘Win A Banger’ added 17% in sales value to Cadbury’s singles.

That’s backbreaking extra product picking, right there!

Match and WinNow, the amount of Mondelez chocolate bars we ship out of here on a regular basis is confidential, but between you and us, think ‘mountain’. Worst case scenario for the lads who do the lifting is a 20% hike in volume for the best part of three months… That’s because the aforementioned ‘army of operators who replenish the UK’s vending machines every day’ have their own incentive to Match and Win: by stocking five core Cadbury lines; affixing the free promotional material to their vending machine; taking a photo of the job well done and sending it Mondelez at, they’ll have a chance of sharing in the forthcoming footy fabulousness.

The bottom line is that you, Dear Customer, are about to see your sales of these Cadbury lines sky-rocket. The question is, can our Cadbury’s Heroes cope with the increased demand?

Of course they can!

Can’t you, lads?


THE PROFESSIONAL BIT: T&Cs apply. For details on how to enter and the prizes up for grabs, please contact your Mondelez Representative.





Meet Lisa Bradbury: Our Newly-Crowned Queen of Credit Control

The first thing you’ll notice if you speak to her on the phone is ‘confidence’. You see, Lisa Bradbury has been making (and taking) difficult calls every working day for the past CENSORED! years…

‘I’m always excepting a lot of people to ring me up’, she says with a laugh.

Meet our newly-crowned Queen of Credit Control. Lisa joined us from a company called SMH, but the bulk of her career so far – CENSORED! years, in fact – was spent with Brett Oils, the UK’s largest fuel distributor.

A Jarrow lass, born and bred, Lisa sums up her duties like this – ‘making sure all the deliveries are going out and all the payments are coming in’ – and that’s pretty much ‘on the money’. (Pardon the pun). Day to day, she’ll be chasing payments, keeping a watchful eye on debts and credit limits and co-ordinating orders.

At home, Lisa’s a wife (to Paul) and a mother to a 21 and a 17 year old – both of whom (deep joy!) remain in the family nest… She’s a bit of an exercise nut (we’ve already put her name down for next year’s charity effort) and when all else fails, she has a much-loved Shih Tzu on hand to keep her sane.

And finally, the thing you need to know most of all: is she a Magpie or a Mackem? ‘I’m Newcastle through and through’, she says.

Welcome on board, Lisa!

Melitta Means To Make Its Mark In The Market.


We’ve been making the news in the catering press. That’s because when German coffee brand, Melitta Professional announced details of their partnership with us, eyebrows were raised. It’s a Big Story in catering, because it sends a message loud and clear to the coffee industry at large: Melitta means to ‘spread its wings’, by making its mark in our marketplace.

They were particularly complimentary about us in their press release. Laura Sherwood, New Market manager at Melitta Professional, said: ‘Securing this partnership with Automatic Retailing delivers a strong start to our journey into the UK Horeca market. With its great industry reputation, excellent customer service and expertise, Automatic Retailing was the obvious choice for us as our partner.’

‘Great industry reputation’. ‘Excellent customer service and expertise’. ‘Obvious choice’. Music to our ears, that was.

John Crichton our CEO was well pleased, as you might imagine: ‘Naturally, we’re delighted to be working with such a large and reputable brand as Melitta Professional as they continue to grow in the UK Horeca coffee market’, he said. (With a Big Smile).

Melitta has over 108 years’ experience within coffee, including sourcing and roasting. The history of the Melitta Group goes back to 1908, when Melitta Bentz invented the coffee filter, thus laying the foundation for modern coffee preparation. We’ve got four fantastic Melitta Professional products on sale and available for immediate delivery. Find out more, and place your order, here.


We’ve Made Up Our Minds: Now, Will You Help Us To Give ‘The Gift Of A Wedding’, Please?

You may well remember that we turned to you, our valued customers, to give us a hand in deciding what we’d do for charity this year as a company.

We should’ve known better…

There’s a competitive streak that runs right through ARN – we’ll never knowingly be second best to anybody – and normally, that’s A Good Thing. But there’s a downside: that same dogged determination meant that, when your ideas came through to us, we looked for the most difficult challenge, not the easiest.

So we’ve made our decision. An ARN team is going to walk 500 miles, in one week.

The idea is that on Saturday the 27th of May, we’ll field a full-scale team on a walk from Craster to Seahouses.

When we say we’ll walk 500 miles, that’s the aggregate total the team needs to achieve. So, if we could get 500 people joining in, we’d only need to walk one mile each. If we get 10 walkers, we’d need to clock-up 50 miles apiece…

Participants will be given pedometers and the number of ‘normal’ steps they take during the week will also be taken into account. Given that the lads in the warehouse hardly ever stop moving, we’re confident we’ll hit our 500 miles target.

But it won’t be easy…

The charity chosen to benefit from this organised chaos is called ‘Gift Of A Wedding’. This suggestion came from Louise Cummings at AVS. (Thanks Louise!)We did our own research and we liked what we saw…

We’re in the process of putting a ‘Just Giving’ page together and we urge you to dig deep. If you’d like to find out more about ‘Gift Of A Wedding’, check out the info below.

Thanks in anticipation of your support. To visit our fund raising page, PLEASE CLICK HERE.


About Gift Of A Wedding

Gift Of A Wedding is a UK charity which provides free weddings to people with a terminal illness, regardless of age, race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. The charity’s web site is here.

Case History: Kathryn De-Wet, who has terminal cancer, marries Nick Slattery thanks to Gift Of A Wedding, here. It’ll touch your heart…