Christmas sales went well for the Zapf family from Kandel in the Palatinate, managing director Lisa Zapf tells us. While the agricultural production - Zapf Fresh Vegetables - is run by her parents and uncle, Lisa Zapf has been devoting herself primarily to the distribution of the Zalat-o-mats for several years. These vending machines will sell, among other things, the products of the Zapf family, but also those of regional producers. The Zalat-o-mats have already been set up at more than a dozen locations around Kandel.
A family business, as it is written in the book: Brother Christoph Zapf, Lisa Zapf, parents Karin Zapf and Jürgen Zapf, uncle Marco Zapf and their partner Olaf Heid.
Positive feedback throughout
Zapf has gotten many positive responses from her customers. "Above all, our customers appreciate the quality of the goods with which the vending machines are filled and the variety of products they contain. New suppliers are also being added all the time. We are constantly discovering new products that we are convinced are good in terms of both quality and the supply chain. Customers appreciate that new things are constantly being added to what is tried and tested as well."
Despite the rising prices, production of the vending machines is still running quite smoothly. "Of course, the increased costs definitely complicate the production of the machines as well as the operation in agriculture. All prices are rising enormously, whether packaging materials, fertilizers or crop protection products. To still be able to maintain our prices requires a lot of work."
Top sellers lamb's lettuce and Brussels sprouts
Lamb's lettuce is the main sales product, he said, and it is certainly of good quality, which is why it is most in demand - followed by Brussels sprouts. "Our customers have noticed that Brussels sprouts no longer taste so bitter. On the contrary, they taste very good." While prices for the vegetable products have not yet had to be raised, Zapf expects that over the course of the year - with the rising minimum wage - prices will have to be increased by 20%.
Zalat-o-mat as a new marketing channel
The idea for the Zalat-o-mats came to Zapf after she graduated as an insurance saleswoman. "Since I grew up on my parents' farm, it was also important to me to preserve it and continue it as much as possible." Instead of building another farm store, however, Zapf decided to explore new marketing avenues. "Farm stores are a dime a dozen here in the Palatinate. Five years ago, we came up with the idea of using vending machines. There were already some for butchery products, but none for fruit and vegetables. In Stüwer Ltd - which is responsible for REGIOMATEN® - we finally found the right partner for our vending machines."
Focus on regionality
It is important to Zapf to be able to sell regional goods, which is why there are no concrete plans as yet to install the vending machines outside the region. "We sell Regiomats throughout Germany. Zalat-o-mat is our own brand, which is what we call our Regiomats, which are stocked with our own products (from Zapf Frischgemüse). Setting up Zalat-o-mats further afield than the region is not really planned, but if customers, from wherever, are interested in buying a Regiomat, we are happy to be the point of contact."
In addition to maintaining the vending machines in their area, however, Zapf also works with Olaf Heid to sell Regiomats. "2021 was definitely a challenging year. There were some incidents and challenges that we had to pay attention to, but overall it was a good year," Zapf concludes.
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