“This is not your grandfather’s vending machine,” said North Haven resident Pasquale Nuzzolillo.
A former insurance executive with healthcare firms, among others, he is now part of the family-owned . The company supplies vending machines and vending supply products to clients across a large swath of the state.
Nuzzolillo said the company grew out of his son’s experience at Southern Connecticut University. Now the managing member of the company, his 38-year-old son Pat Jr., saw how students gravitated toward vending machines. After dabbling in vending during university, the son expanded his vending service until the family formed the North Haven-based company 16 years ago.
“There were standard snack items and not a lot of people were concerned about the oil or fat or salt content. They all just figured that a snack was a snack,” Nuzzolillo Sr. said of vending products then. “As time has gone by, people have become more and more health-conscious. We have moved along with the times.”
Of the companies with 50 or more employees that Diversified Vending serves, 75 percent of them now request a supply of up to 40 percent of ‘healthy options” in their machines. These include such products as dried bananas, dried mango or the high-fiber Kashi® bar in snack machines, and Snapple as a beverage. One client, the Wallingford-based United Concrete Products Inc., stocks only healthy products in its vending machine.
But it’s the change in the energy-efficient vending machines themselves that provide the “wow” factor. That’s where Nuzzolillo likes to think the North Haven company is ahead of the curve. A San Francisco-based start-up called Canteloupe Systems has developed a Seed innovation that fits into a vending machine and transmits sales data to a remote server, which Diversified Vending uses to stock and service its machines.
The wireless transmissions can even project overnight sales for each of the company’s machines so that Diversified Vending can prepackage one box for each machine before a company truck leaves for the vending machine’s location.
Absent the guesswork formerly involved in stocking machines, the device, which also lets the company know when a machine is jammed or has lost power, cuts supply time by 50 percent, Nuzzolillo said.
Surprisingly, public schools account for a small percentage of Diversified Vending’s business. That’s because, Nuzzolillo explained, Connecticut law gives the state Board of Education and Services for the Blind (BESB) the right to operate on-site vending operations in public buildings. These include not only schools but also all other public buildings, from town halls to federal courthouses.
“If you have a state highway rest stop with vending machines, there’s significant volume in sales and obviously the Association for the Blind receives a commission based on sales, and they control pricing. It hasn’t been a good piece of business for us,” Nuzzolillo observed. He said the BESB contracts with Coca-Cola exclusively for beverage rights. Then, Coca-Cola subcontracts with companies like Diversified Vending to provide snack products.
And while Nuzzolillo conceded people are making sacrifices in today’s economy, he said that a snack from a vending machine has become a reward.
The challenging economy notwithstanding, the company has diversified into catering and “kiosks,” which function as a kind of compact and highly automated cafeteria.
Nuzzolillo said never in his “wildest dream” did he think he would become an expert on trends in the national diet. “I come from the insurance industry. No, I never thought that at this point in my life I would be changing my focus.
“It’s revitalizing,” he said.