Northern Regional Meeting 2016

We in the office were very excited in the lead up to this event as we pulled out all the stops. Luckily it all paid off and one member described it as “the best AVA event that (he’s) been to in a long time”!

On the 16th November, we held our usual Northern Regional Meeting at the Town Hall Library in Manchester but this year we wanted to try something new.  With the proposed sugar tax for 2018, we decided to have a Question Time style panel of professionals from both inside and outside the vending industry.

Before the panel began, the afternoon started with the an update on the AVA delivered by Jonathan Hart, the Chief Executive of the AVA.  He gave a bit of background to the sugar tax and discussed the AVA’s position on the matter.  He then spoke about the new £1 that is due to come into circulation in March 2017 and how we have been using our public voice to discuss in the media how it will affect vending.

Our focus then shifted to the ‘Sugar Tax’ panel debate. We had an excellent line up of speakers with varying ideas on the topic, please see the full line up below.

The speakers were:

Tim Varney.  Managing Director of Revive Vending. Sales of healthy vending alternatives will soon overtake traditional vending at Revive. Tim says “Healthy Vending is not a fad. The Sugar Tax and other taxes will happen. Let’s embrace the challenges and look for alternative snacks and cold drinks that are better for us. To change the image of vending, we have to change”.

Joe Harvey.  Consultant to the Soil Association ‘Food for Life Hospital Leaders’ programme and the Health Education Trust. He is currently working with a number of Hospital Trusts to review their vending services in line with the creation of the requirement for each to produce a ‘Food and Drink Strategy’.

Gavin Partington joined the BSDA as Director General in 2012 from the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, where he was interim Chief Executive.

Christopher Snowdon is the head of Lifestyle Economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs. His research focuses on lifestyle freedoms, prohibition and policy-based evidence. He is the editor of the Nanny State Index, the author of four books and has written more than a dozen reports for the IEA.

James Nichols is the great grandson of the man who created the iconic Vimto.  The drink dates back over 100 years to a small town in Lancashire and as as the years went on, Vimto expanded to fizzy drinks and confectionery. James will be able to provide first hand analysis of how the soft drinks levy could affect the drinks industry.

The audience asked the panel a number of different questions from ‘What is wrong with sugar?’ to ‘Will the tax make a difference?’. The debate obviously caused some passionate answers and discussions from the panel and the audience both.

It was debated that sugar is the new enemy as it is a similar campaign to the likes of tobacco, salt and fat. Tim Varney stated that we do not need more sugar added to our food and that self regulation wasn’t working so the Government needs to step in. Chris stated that the Government has gone too far and these should be our decisions to make. With Joe Harvey’s background he was of course concerned with catering in hospitals. He did not necessarily agree with this tax but felt that something needed to be done and this is a time for vending to act and answer to this. James believed that his company is already prepared for this with a number of low sugar options, as well as many other soft drinks companies. All believed that if vending did not react to this and show that they are willing to support then we will be hit with more regulations so we need to take this seriously. All were also in agreement that especially in places like hospitals, to move with the times, vending machines need to to adjust what they sell but that the location need to adjust what profit they will expect from the machine. All believed that the problem is much wider than sugar in soft drinks – it is the hidden sugar in other products – and Joe believes that children need to be taught to cook and be interested in food from a young age to make a difference. The panel were unsure where the Government would end with these sort of taxes. Chris believed that the Government likes to make money from these taxes but will only go with popular opinion of the masses. Tim believes that it will not stop here.

Over all it was a lively debate with great opinions and a lot of food for thought!


Thank you to all who attended and we look forward to repeating this format with new topics in the future.