According to one giant of the industry that I spoke to, the Mother web site gives the impression that the company is involved in the media, not in vending… He’s got a point. Visit the homepage and you’re greeted by the legend, ‘Vending. Reinvented’ and the ‘meet the team’ section consist of arty portraits of people, all of whom look as though they could direct a blockbuster or produce a number-one hit.
Those two pages tell you all you need to know about the company that’s just been backed to the tune of £3m by Montreux Capital Management: ‘there’s something cool about Mother’.
Mother Founder and CEO Phil Davison cheerfully admits that he has no background in vending. ‘I come from ten years immersed in the financial world’, he tells me. ‘When we began, my only experience of vending was as a user of vending machines and by and large, that experience was of disappointment. I’m a health-conscious individual and during many a late night shift in the office I’ve turned to a vending machine only to find that the drinks or snacks I wanted weren’t on offer.
‘That’s what made me think seriously about vending. As an outsider, I saw it as a fantastic, low-cost retail solution. As an early adopter of technology, I wondered what might be achieved if the look and feel of a vending machine was reinvigorated and new, hi-tech features were incorporated.’
It wasn’t just the look and feel of a vending machine that occupied him. From the beginning, Phil was committed to giving his fledgling company a unique look and feel that would make it stand out from the established players in the marketplace. With that in mind, one of his first collaborations was a former Marketing Director with the Jamie Oliver Group. Presently, the name and the concept of ‘Mother’ emerged.
‘We felt Mother humanised our ideas and gave them personality. The name works in two ways’, Phil said. ‘It evokes pleasant recollections of nurture and caring, as in ‘Mother Earth’ and ‘Mother Nature’, but it also has contemporary connotations, as in ‘Mother Ship’ or ‘Mother Board.’ There’s also mother knows best, like mother used to make… All in all, it’s arguably The Mother Of All Brand Names.
The emergence of new technology is encouraging new players into the arena as machine manufacturers and Phil believes that the timing is right to join the fray and challenge the traditional players such as Evoca, Crane; Westomatic and the like. Although he has been quoted as referring to the industry as ‘archaic’, he is quick to acknowledge that there are champions of technology already in place. ‘There’s lots of fantastic innovation in the market just now and some people are doing fantastic things’, he says. ‘I’m really excited to see companies going down the route of innovation and re-invention, because that draws attention to the entire sector and makes it sexier to consumers. Smart phones and tablets are used universally these days and when they are coupled with payment and loyalty apps on these devices, what were once simply mechanical machines become something entirely different.
‘We realise we’re one of a number of companies integrating new technology in to traditional vending, but I think we have a u.s.p. in the way we’re marrying the best in technology together with very strong branding and a compelling offer of snacks and drink products.
‘We’ve been careful not to concentrate purely on ‘healthier’ products. The term doesn’t really work in my view, because it’s so subjective, so instead, we prefer to give customers information, for instance if a product is low in fat, is high in protein, or is high fibre. By making it easy to access this information and by providing a complete spectrum of configurations, we can tailor menus to match the exact requirements of any client. However, recalling my own experience as a user, we’re always careful to ensure that a wide range of healthier products, for want of a better term, is available to consumers.’
Those consumers will never have to root around for coins: Mother has been fully cashless since Day One. ‘We may have lost out on some business initially as a consequence, but since then there’s been exponential growth in cashless in all walks of life so these days, it’s no longer an issue.’
In the medium term, Phil envisages that Mother will come to be seen as part and parcel of the vending community. He is considering coming into the fold by joining the AVA and / or any trade groups that may be appropriate. ‘For the first couple of years we’ve not integrated that much, so maybe we’ve been seen as the odd balls of the industry. Having said that, because we’ve come in from the cold, we’ve had to rely on the fantastic help and guidance of industry veterans. We don’t have that experience in house and they’ve given us a whole heap of advice, for instance in logistics and operations. As we roll out from the South East across the UK, though, integrating in some shape or form with other companies in the industry will certainly be on the agenda.
‘By the end of Q3, our machines will be installed in around 100 sites in London and the South East and as the roll out begins we’ll be talking to potential partners about making sure it’s a huge success.’
The Mother of all successes, maybe?
The Planet Vending & OCS archive of ‘Vending Insight’ articles is HERE