Since 1978 J&J Vending Inc. has grown from a vending business running out of a garage to a versatile retail company operating out of a 12,000-sq-ft office and warehouse building in Union City, CA. This third-generation, family-owned business now supplies water, coffee, and pantry items to manufacturing, distribution, and office facilities across the Bay Area, as well as vending machine goods for retail locations, factories, office buildings, and schools. Ashley Karpan started working for J&J Vending more than 15 years ago and today is the Operations Manager and Head Buyer. She is responsible for finding new products and ensuring those products get to the customers. Read on to learn how Karpan uses RangeMe to discover new and exciting products for J&J Vending’s customers and her experience ordering products directly from suppliers on RangeMe.
RangeMe: When did you join RangeMe, and how are you using RangeMe?
Karpan: I joined RangeMe back in 2020 after hearing about the discovery platform from one of our product suppliers.
I use RangeMe when I get a request from a customer for a specific type of product. I log in and search keywords relating to the products I’m looking for, check out the brand’s profile, and request samples. Using RangeMe is a great way to research brands and products. I’ll go down a rabbit hole discovering products I’ve never heard of before.
RangeMe: Are there additional RangeMe resources that help you discover new products?
Karpan: Yes! I love being able to see what’s trending on Instagram. J&J Vending customers constantly reference brands and products they saw on Instagram or Facebook ads, so looking at brands in the Trending on Instagram Collection helps me bring relevant and trending products to our customers. I also enjoy using the Country of Origin and MSRP cost filters.
RangeMe: J&J Vending was one of the first retailers to order products directly from suppliers on RangeMe. How has this experience been?
Karpan: It’s been great! It’s easy to use, easy to get in touch with the suppliers, and order from them directly.
RangeMe: What do suppliers need to have in place to be considered for J&J Vending purchase orders?
Karpan: In general, I’m always looking for products that meet various diet requirements like gluten-free and vegan. That’s typically what sparks my interest first. Next, I look to see if the products meet our size requirements. Given that we work with vending customers, suppliers must have products that fit the size requirements of coils that vend. Suppliers also need to have a unit cost of under $3 or so. It’s also super helpful when suppliers are willing to send samples of products and products they think my customer might also be interested in.
Before placing a purchase order, they also need to be willing to fulfill an order minimum of a few cases or a couple hundred dollars worth.
RangeMe: What brand have you placed a purchase order with directly on RangeMe?
Karpan: Tosi, which is a nutbar. We love the simple, organic ingredients, low sugar, and plant Protein. Plus, they taste amazing! We’re a sucker for a good story too, and this mother-daughter team really stood out to us. We’ve ordered twice with them directly through RangeMe now, and they have come faster and slightly cheaper than going through other distribution channels.
RangeMe: What are some other brands you have connected with on RangeMe?
Karpan: We have found so many great brands! Rule Breaker–gluten-free, vegan cookies that even come in fun holiday flavors; Jealous Sweets–healthy gummy candies; Berg Bites–a delicious clean energy snack that eats like a cookie; Wenzel Farm jerky–converted me into a meat stick lover, these are my #1 snack right now and Olyra–nutritious Greek breakfast biscuits.
Karpan buys products for both J&J Vending and for their snack box service, Oh Goodie!
RangeMe: Is there anything you wish more suppliers added to their profiles that would make discovering new products easier for you?
Karpan: Vending often gets overlooked. If a supplier is interested in this retail channel, having all the flavor SKUs listed out and as many sizes as possible—especially if you offer 1- or 2-oz packages—would be super helpful to determine if a supplier can work with the customers we support.
RangeMe: What trends or greater initiatives is J&J Vending focusing its sourcing efforts on?
Karpan: We’re always looking for clean label products like organic, vegan, no artificial flavors or natural flavors added. Our customers and their employees or consumers live in the Bay Area, which means everyone has diverse backgrounds and flavor preferences. I’m always looking for diverse brands and flavors, especially those from minority-, women-, and LGBTQ-owned suppliers. We also have a goal to be plastic bottle free by 2024, so sustainable packaging is always a plus.
RangeMe: How has J&J Vending been combatting supply chain obstacles?
Karpan: The supply chain issues have been rough. RangeMe has been a great way to find emerging brands in place of the unavailable big name brands like Coke or Pepsi that we may not have discovered under normal circumstances. We needed to find suppliers that sourced their own ingredients or made everything in-house, ship items quickly, and work around the supply chain issues. I use RangeMe search filters and message suppliers to make sure they can meet these requirements. You should see my office right now. It’s floating with samples! I needed to get my hands on anything that was available for our customers, which is still an ongoing effort.
As a family-run business, we like to support other family-run companies, and they’re easy to find on RangeMe. We want to help them build their brand awareness alongside J&J Vending, and these supply chain issues have been a silver lining to expedite these efforts.
Karpan is excited to continue leveraging RangeMe as her main form of product discovery and is thrilled about the option of ordering products directly from suppliers on the platform. “RangeMe is the best way to find new products and connect with brands in one space,” says Karpan.
Are you a retail buyer interested in learning more about ordering products on RangeMe? Visit here.
Are you a supplier interested in selling products directly to retail buyers on RangeMe? Go here.