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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."
READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS 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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