Manufacturer of the Year: Paul Cunningham by ProQuest


Cunningham was responsible for vending and convenience store accounts in the Midwest. "He ([Phil Hanson, Sr.]) was such a bull dog," he said of his mentor. "He wouldn't take 'no' for an answer when it came to new items."

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Manufacturer of the Year
Paul Cunningham
ConAgra Foods Inc.
By Elliot Maras, Editor

Paul Cunningham says ConAgra Foods Inc. is in
a good position to develop products that meet
customers’ needs. He looks forward to broadening
the company’s vend product portfolio.

A        s the vending industry has matured, consolidation
         has affected all segments of the vending industry:
         operators, brokers, distributors and manufacturers.
The survivors are the leaders.
    Paul Cunningham, regional sales manager for Illinois,
                                                               1993 as a sales
                                                               rep shortly after
                                                               receiving his undergraduate
                                                               degree from Troy State University in Troy, Ala. Fortunately,
                                                               he got the opportunity to work with a successful veteran
Wisconsin and Minnesota for ConAgra Foods Inc., believes       broker, Phil Hanson, Sr.
that manufacturers have an important role to play in mak-          Cunningham was responsible for vending and
ing sure operators have products that meet customer needs      convenience store accounts in the Midwest. “He (Phil
and allow operators to make a fair profit. This is a big        Hanson, Sr.) was such a bull dog,” he said of his mentor.
responsibility, and he is committed to working closely with    “He wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer when it came to
operators, brokers and distributors in making it happen.       new items.”
    Cunningham, the 2008 Automatic Merchandiser Manu-              Cunningham recognized that Hanson’s confidence came
facturer of the Year, has the benefit of having worked on the   from knowing what makes a good seller in vending, which
broker and distributor sides of the business. He also had      is something that takes time to learn. Hanson had intro-
the benefit of learning first-hand from a well established       duced Gardetto’s Snak-Ens and Act II Microwave Popcorn
manufacturer executive, his father, Ted Cunningham, who        to vending operators.
served many years at Golden Valley Microwave Foods Inc.            “I liked working for the small family-owned business-
    The junior Cunningham learned a lot from his dad, who      es,” Cunningham said. “It was a good training ground.”
was very popular in the industry. He learned the impor-
tance of being direct with people and always being honest.     MOVING TO THE DISTRIBUTOR SIDE
“He did what he said,” Cunningham said of his father.              After five years at the brokerage, Cunningham moved to
                                                               VSA’s Pewaukee, Wis
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