Canadian Vending

Features Associations Business
Strength in Numbers


August 31, 2009
By Michelle Brisebois

Topics

The cruel paradox of business can be traced right back to the golden rule: “He who has the gold makes the rules.”

The cruel paradox of business can be traced right back to the golden rule: “He who has the gold makes the rules.”

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Daniel Deschamps: Membership can offer the strength in numbers to make those smaller pack sizes worth their while to produce.


 

When you’re a small to medium sized enterprise, you really need to squeeze every drop of profit from each and every dollar. You need distributors to give you great prices, you need to have a voice to be able to advocate for “vending friendly” packaging formats.
In short – you need clout.

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If you’re a smaller business wielding smaller volume demands you may just find yourself “clout adjacent.” In this dog-eat-dog world; you’ll be glad to know that obtaining clout is just an application away.  Enter Univend.

Univend, based in Laval, Que., is a co-operative association of vending and other foodservice-related businesses.

Univend’s mandate is simple says Daniel Deschamps, general manager of Univend.

“We’re there to help the vending industry and other small foodservice operators increase their profitability by securing the best pricing for the members of our group.”

There is no cost associated with becoming a member of Univend; the applicant must simply posses a good reputation and credit rating. Great prices, volume rebates, special terms, profitable promotions are just a few of the benefits secured by skilled negotiators who work on behalf of the Univend membership.

“We also have a portal only accessible to our members on the Univend website. With just a click of the mouse, members can see price lists updated daily with exciting promotional pricing available on strong brand names. We have access to many volume rebates because of our collective strength. We estimate that $3,000 to $5,000 is an average on cost savings a company can make per vending route (or by truck) by joining our group because of our special or competitive prices and our different programs. For example, a company that has three vending routes should be able to save up to $15,000 depending on the volume of purchases it’s making to our group. We had one member who saved $20,000 just on soda,” says Deschamps.

Univend began with five members in 1990 and incorporated in 2002 hiring a general manager who reports to a board of directors. At this time, the co-operative is the only buying group of its kind in Canada and has grown from those initial five members to 84. That’s a huge leap from the 23 members in 2006. The members hail from every province in Canada except British Columbia, Saskatchewan, P.E.I. and Newfoundland.

“We also strive to offer flexibility to our members,” points out Deschamps. “Members can pick and choose their suppliers from the list. If someone wants to keep using, for example, their sandwich guy, then they can.”

Univend is more than just a buying group. It’s a resource that can provide support for the industry in other areas.

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Deschamps: Vending machines often still sell chocolate bars for $1.25. They must go up to $1.50 or more to stay on pare with what other channels such as C-stores are charging.


 

“We can help our members purchase trucks, vending machines and equipment,” confirms Deschamps. “Univend will also help members obtain cost-effective insurance and link them up with coaching for retirement planning. Our industry has unique needs when it comes to retirement planning and we help shepherd our members through the process.”

Membership can also help drive new product development initiatives.

The vending industry relies on single-serve portion sizes. Manufacturers are inclined to produce bigger pack sizes which are more profitable and easier to run.

“Our membership collectively can offer the strength in numbers to make those smaller pack sizes worth their while to produce,” says Deschamps. “We can get product listed at distributors all across Canada. On fuel, our members are saving 0.025$ (2.5 cents) a litre.”

When it comes to the vending industry issues, challenges and trends, Univend is there to offer advice and education.

“Our competition isn’t other vending machines,” points out Deschamps. “Our competition is actually C-stores and donut chains who typically aren’t under attack by the healthy food advocates like vending is.”

Health is a big opportunity for the vending industry and Univend offers healthy food programs and information to make it easier for operators to access a turnkey offering.

“We’ll also advise members as to what products are allowed in high school machines along with a list of healthy sanctioned products low in sugar and fat,” confirms Deschamps. “We hold regional meetings to review the costs with members and to share best practices.”

Adjusting selling prices through vending machines is also an opportunity that the group sees potentially bolstering profitability.

“Vending machines often still sell chocolate bars for $1.25. They must go up to $1.50 or more to stay on pare with what other channels such as C-stores are charging,” urges Deschamps.

The member-only portal also gives members a place to sell equipment or to ask questions of their peer group.

“We’re also just a phone call away if people want to ask us for advice,” encourages Deschamps. 

For an industry used to being like a “lone wolf,” it’s a bit of a paradigm shift for some to consider joining a buying group.

Efficient businesses are profitable businesses and joining forces with like-minded enterprises makes it easier to realize certain efficiencies. Lone wolves may get to enjoy the spoils of their hunts all to themselves but they miss out on the effectiveness of the pack.

Who Can Join?

  • Owners of companies that operate vending machines
  • People who specialize in coffee services
  • Companies that manage commercial or industrial foodservice operations
  • Food and snack bar operators
  • Restaurant or restaurant chain owners
  • Foodservices in long-term care facilities

Benefits

  • Obtain the best prices, including good purchasing terms and conditions, for members
  • Negotiate programs and volume rebates with its selected suppliers
  • Regularly offer supplier promotions for its members
  • Keep its members informed of new products and services available in the industry
  • A bulletin board is available for members, to buy and sell equipment, fixed assets, vehicles, or for any other need.