‘Lyons Instant Coffee Has A Unique Opportunity To Thrive And Prosper In UK Vending’, says What Price Solutions’ MD, Richard Allen.


At What Price Solutions, we have a very uncomplicated business model: we take brands and set out to establish them in the vending market. It’s that simple. You might say we’re the ultimate niche operation: we’re the only sales agency in the UK that’s focused exclusively on the vending & OCS market and we must be doing something right, because we’ve enjoyed annual growth for the past 15 years.

Our track record speaks for itself and that’s why there’s hardly a week goes by when we aren’t contacted by a brand that has ambitions in vending and hopes to benefit from our knowledge, our experience and our contacts in the industry.

When it came to Lyons Instant Coffee, though, the roles were reversed and it was What Price Solutions that set out to do the wooing…

The story began when we saw an article in a retail magazine that was all about how well Lyons Signature freeze-dried coffee was performing. The Lyons spokesman quoted in the story was a name that was familiar to me, namely Jim Cain. So, I contacted Jim and said ‘look, we think that there’s an opportunity for a strong brand with a distinctive heritage to have a significant impact in vending and Lyons ticks all the right boxes.’

Richard Allen: ‘the future’s so bright, we’ve got to wear shades’.

Once upon a time, maybe 20 years ago, Lyons had been a significant brand in vending. The ‘Selecta’ of the day, the national operator, was ProVend and they had Lyons coffee in their vending machines. In fact a lot of companies used Lyons and many of vending’s buyers and key-influencers are well aware of that.

When we met Jim and his colleagues, we had wide ranging discussions about the brand, its provenance and its potential. We made what we considered to be a very strong case in favour of launching the brand back into vending.

We felt that the time was right. If you look at the marketplace, you’ll see that it’s heading very much in the direction of bean-to-cup; but there’s still a place for instant coffee in vending, in much the same way as there’s still a place for in-cup products in OCS. What’s more, in the period since Lyons Instant coffee had gone to ground, some of the big brands had merged. Kraft and Douwe Egberts, for instance, are now runners that share the same stable. The market has a cyclical sort of quality to it. Where Kenco used to be strong, now Douwe Egberts is having its day. Nestlé, on the other hand, appears to have dropped off the map and that leaves a hole in the market.

Our conclusion at the end of that initial presentation to Jim and his colleagues was that there was a unique opportunity for a mid-range brand to thrive and prosper in the marketplace and what’s more that Lyons had the perfect credentials – in terms of brand recognition, quality, heritage and price – to grasp that opportunity.

I was delighted when the team at Lyons Instant Coffee reacted positively and even now, when it’s still ‘early days’, the reaction to the brand in the vending marketplace is more than justifying our optimism. We’re proud to be a part of a modern vending success story.

As the rock group ZZ Top once sang, ‘the future’s so bright, we’ve got to wear shades’.