The vending industry in the UK is showing signs of a post-pandemic recovery, with 16% growth reported in the sector from 2020 to 2021, new research from the Vending & Automated Retail Association (AVA) has found.
The findings from the AVA’s annual Census for 2021, which consists of submissions from the operators of 310,000 machines around the UK, also highlighted the continued growth of cashless vending technology and micro-markets as the industry continues to pivot to meet the changing dynamics of the world.
Whilst industry turnover remains down on 2019 figures, 16% growth was recorded from 2020 to 2021, aided by increased revenues from hot beverages (up 16%), cold beverages (up 13%), snacks (up 16%) and food (up 19%).
As the industry moves further away from the initial shock of the pandemic, Operators expect a further growth of 20% throughout 2022, aided by price increases and reduced home-working, combined with growth in the Coffee-to-Go market (up 20% from 2020 to 2021) and the unprecedented rise in the popularity of micro-markets, which saw a 25% growth from 2020 to 2021.
The AVA’s findings reflect the ever-changing nature of the working world, with hybrid working seeing a reduction in the use of traditional workplace canteens and increased demand for micro-markets and ‘smart fridges’.
Meanwhile, cashless operations continue to increase, with more than 55% of pay-vend machines now having cashless systems, with an increasing amount being cashless only. Where cashless systems are fitted, two thirds of transactions (68%) are completed by card or phone, a significant increase on the 34% reported in 2017.
Chief Executive of the AVA, David Llewellyn, said:
“It is welcome to see that the industry is showing roots of recovery following the significant disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Operators have shown significant creativity in their response to the key challenges in 2021, modifying their approach to ensure profitability despite hybrid working.
“Despite further challenges on the way – whether staffing, rising costs, supply chain issues or potential new legislation – it is important to remain optimistic about an industry that has never failed to show agility and resilience. Shifts in demand and consumer habits bring with them new opportunities, and we anticipate this to be especially true in the next year, as clients feel the need to improve their facilities and catering offerings to entice employees back into the office.”