Clocking up an impressive 15 years in the industry…

Matrix Catering’s extensive range of vending machines has given the company a well-deserved reputation for excellence and innovation. From the manufacture and supply of its own machines, to the confidential creation of bespoke models, the Matrix name has become synonymous with the ‘”Tabletop soluble machine” we all know and love. David has presided over the steady growth of the company from its first days of trading from a small unit in Maldon, to the current purpose built and owned factory in Wickford. 

What is striking about David is just how down to earth he is. He clearly values the individual contribution that each of his employees makes to the business – which is probably why staff turnover is so low. His first employee has just retired after 15 years with the company and his Service Director enjoyed the job so much that he carried on four years after his retirement date. His current workforce has been with the company an average of 10 years, demonstrating that longevity is a core part of the Matrix ethos. David is still heavily involved in the day to day running of Matrix and shows no signs of slowing; “I’m off to China in a few weeks, knowing the Chinese have a fantastic reputation for being great innovators it will give me the opportunity to look at the vending industry from a different perspective.”

Intrigued, we decided to find out more about the company and David himself.

A trip down memory lane

Having reached senior management level with a major machine manufacturer and supplier in the late 80s/early 90s, David bravely decided he could do it better himself and in 1994, Matrix was born. Wasting no time at all, the company launched the Regent, Sovereign and Monarch machines, before wowing AVEX audiences with them in 1995. In the same year, exports reached a staggering 35% of production – not bad for a company just over a year old.

Looking back at the first few years, David shows the same ‘common sense’ attitude that helped him steer Matrix to the position it is in today. From 1995 to 1998 he clocked up 110,000 miles in an old Rover 600, building up a comprehensive customer base, 90% of which are still Matrix customers.  This is testament both to his commitment to customer service and to the quality of Matrix equipment.

After the success of the first AVEX show, David returned two years later, bringing with him the new Cafe range. By now business was booming and larger premises were needed to meet the increasing demand for product. A move to the purpose built factory in Wickford followed in 1997.

In 2000 several new machines, including the Classic Range, were put into production. A year later, the Convex was re-engineered as, refusing to stand still, David continually looked for ways to improve the company’s product offering.

2005 was another major year for Matrix in terms of innovation: the Classic and Xpression ranges were launched, while the development of the all new Mini Monarch and Maxi Sovereign got underway – backed by  £85,00 of investment in new technology and tooling. It proved to be money well spent as in the launch of the finished machines in 2007 was well received by the marketplace, winning Matrix new custom in the process.

June 2005 saw the beginning of a successful partnership between Matrix and leading coffee roaster and equipment supplier First Choice Coffee. The company had acquired the exclusive rights to supply the Swiss engineered Black&White range of bean-to-cup equipment to a client base of major players in the hotel, restaurant, contract catering and leisure markets. First Choice Coffee built up its product offering, becoming recognised for its expertise in providing total coffee solutions.

Seeing the opportunity that Matrix equipment presented, First Choice Coffee asked David if it was possible to develop a competitively priced soluble chocolate machine. The resulting machine proved to be so successful that 10 months later First Choice Coffee commissioned a liquid chocolate machine for McDonald’s. The new machines were to sit alongside the Black&White machines that First Choice Coffee had already supplied to 1,100 sites nationwide. The new machine was first introduced to McDonald’s in February 2008 and its success has resulted in over 500 being installed in just over a year.

Having established an excellent working relationship with First Choice Coffee, Matrix went onto develop a high speed bulk soluble chocolate dispenser (i.e. 9oz in 5 secs) for Ikea. 

Looking back at the company’s technological achievements, David offers some fascinating insights: “We were way ahead of our time in terms of electronics. We were supplying machines with LEDs five years ago, stand-by modes 10 years ago. We just never shouted about it. We offered a 3-year warranty at a time when nobody else dared too. Now of course, it’s the norm.”

In reference to technology, just some of the innovations Matrix has introduced over the last 4 years include: a new polysulfone boiler to inhibit scale build up, moulded polycarbonate doors to enhance the design, electronic Thermistors that can sense half a degree change in temperature, extensive use of LEDs on button back lights and door graphics, Zintec chassis with Stainless Steel internals and all new 32 character LED displays. From the beginning Matrix has invested substantial sums into research and design, allowing it to become one of the major innovators in the table top soluble market today

It is worth noting that Matrix has implemented these improvements whilst keeping pricing competitive – allowing for inflation prices are lower now than those at AVEX in 1995.

Back to the future

Commenting on the economic climate and the future of the soluble drinks sector, David is confident that the market’s success can be sustained: “There is still a massive demand for soluble equipment. Why do the big coffee and chocolate brands continue to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on advertising? Because there is a market for it, that’s why, and our machines are a cost effective, reliable option. A soluble beverage made correctly will be of a very high quality – both ingredients and technology have come a long way. I suspect that I am going to find that it’s not technology but the ingredients where the biggest advances are to be made in the foreseeable future.”

This year has seen the launch of new and high quality soluble ingredients into the market place e.g. Le Royal cafémilk from Eurogran, Freshers’ granulated chocolate, Cadbury’s revamp of their Highlights range and Barry Callebaut’s new dark chocolate, These ingredients and innovations in the ingredient supply chain are clear evidence that the soluble market is looking forward to the future and can only continue to improve. With the old saying “quality in quality out” there is no way we can fail to expand the market for table top equipment.

With the highest quality machines coupled with the fantastic new products available to operators and end users Matrix is looking forward to an exciting and productive future.

After 14 years and 7 AVEX shows and due to the current economic climate David has made the decision to invest in Research and Development for the next 2 years, the results of which he will showcase at AVEX 2011.

With that, all that remains is to congratulate Matrix on a successful 15 years in the industry and to raise our glasses – and cups – to many more years of innovation to come!