The consumer desire for quality coffee on the go has played into the hands of Coffee Nation, which attempts to replicate a typical coffee shop offer in a vending machine format.

Last year, the business installed machines in 100 new sites and moved 100 others to higher footfall locations, resulting in a 10% increase in sales and a 15% increase in profits. The company has hit sales of £23.6m over the past year, and dispensed 13.3 million coffees and hot drinks.

Having initially established the brand in petrol stations, super­markets and convenience stores, Coffee Nation has now set its sights on pushing further into the lucrative university and workplace market where drinkers have tired of conventional vending.

"The majority of the growth is coming from university campuses, hospitals and workplaces," says CEO Scott Martin. "All of those are already populated with coffee but there are many locations within a university that simply don't merit a full-blown coffee shop, but where the students demand more than just instant coffee vending."

In the first half of this financial year, more than 30 new machines will have gone into universities in what Martin describes as "high-volume locations". Because it has relatively few overheads, Coffee Nation coffees are typically 20p to 30p lower than a manned coffee shop price on a regular cappuccino, but Martin insists the quality is comparable.

"The consumer perception of machine coffee is that it is poor quality. Our screens allow you to customise your drink so if you want a syrup shot you can have one." Martin says the recession did not have a huge impact on the volume of coffee sold as it's "a luxury at an affordable level".

What Coffee Nation has experienced is a marginal move from large to regular formats. "Our average selling price has reduced ever so slightly but our cups per day have increased," says Martin.

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