Founded in 1931, The Wittern Group is comprised of multiple, diverse companies. Collectively, The Wittern Group companies provides a full range of innovative solutions for controlled dispensing equipment, vending machines, cashless systems, software and wireless communications. With a rich history spanning more than 90 years, The Wittern Group name has become synonymous with automated dispensing equipment durability and reliability. As a pioneer of vending, we continually seek out new ways to enhance how operators and consumers interact with our machines.
Throughout its history, The Wittern Group has had an unwavering commitment to the vision and values of F.A. Wittern, Sr., the company’s founder. That commitment has guided our actions and investments for over 90 years. It continues to guide us as a global, strategically linked, integrated operating company of core businesses that are working together with shared values and discipline to provide value to our customers and achieve profitable growth as a company.
A Rich History of Innovation
In 1931 with an original investment of $12.50 for used tools and plenty of ambition, F.A. Wittern Sr. started Hawkeye Novelty, named after the state of Iowa. One of his first machines was a penny peanut dispenser that had a special innovation that was new for its time. Every ninth vend a bell would ring and deliver a free portion. Hawkeye was very successful in the following years, manufacturing peanut vendors, matchbox dispensers and other small vending and novelty devices.
In 1947, Hawkeye Novelty became FAWN, derived from F.A.’s initials. F. A. W. and the N from the last letter of ‘Wittern’, thus FAWN. The evolution of manufactured products continued with the growth of the company and contributed greatly to FAWN’s penetration of traditional and non-traditional markets. From cigarette vendors, popcorn vendors, snack machines, hot and cold beverage machines, as well as many different non-food merchandising equipment, FAWN has made a name for itself in providing quality vending products and services for a growing industry.
It was also during this time that Wittern made a decision that would greatly contribute to the company’s success in the next several decades. In 1952 Wittern established its own in-house finance company, a wholly- owned subsidiary, in order to help entrepreneurs and retailers buy and profit from their own machines. The competitive, flexible finance plans offered by Wittern changed the industry. It made entry to the market a simple process and helped many customers build and grow their businesses.
In 1957, F.A.’s son, Art, joined the company as Sales Manager and continued to build upon his father’s ideals and philosophies for the organization which center around the customer. Art understood that simply providing an equipment solution was a limiting factor and would take the company only so far. In order to be successful, he recognized the need for creating a total support structure for vending entrepreneurs that provided solutions throughout the many stages of their business.
If we take care of our customer we take care of ourselves.
F.A. Wittern, Chairman
The company has grown through acquisition, diversification of its products and services, and the incorporation of new technologies into its products. The Wittern Group has evolved from a single entity to a successful, diverse group of companies dedicated to serving the controlled dispensing and automatic merchandising industries.
Today, the company is in its third generation of family leadership and the company is diversifying its customer base by expanding its offering into non-traditional, growing market segments such as medical products and IT / office supplies. The need for greater inventory control and asset management capabilities through various dispensing methods such as on-demand, retail, and secured access drive the applications in these markets.
The Wittern Group’s reason for longevity is that we are very nimble; throughout the years, we have strategically diversified and transformed our product and service offerings to adapt to advancements in technology, shifting markets, and changing customer needs. We believe Iowa-based manufacturers can thrive in today’s economy, but not in the same way as the past. The products we build, the way we build them, and the skills required to build them are much different today from when the company began in 1931 and even vastly different from 10 or 15 years ago.
In 1931 when my grandfather started the Hawkeye Novelty Company, he had no idea it would ultimately develop into the internationally successful business that operates today under the name The Wittern Group. Today’s the company’s operations circle the globe and the company is renowned worldwide for its cutting edge technology and commitment to customer service.
Heidi Chico, CEO