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Martell Recognized By Peers

with the Don Storey Award

September 3, 2008
By Cam Wood


Brian Martell admits it was a big surprise to him, when at the recent CAMA trade show he was awarded the Don Storey Award.

Brian Martell admits it was a big surprise to him, when at the recent CAMA trade show he was awarded the Don Storey Award.

“I’m both very honoured and very humbled,” he told the audience that evening. “Looking at the names on the award, I’m not sure mine belongs.”

A few weeks later, sitting in his London, Ont., office, Martell remains almost convinced he does not deserve the recognition this year. The annual recognition is named in honour of Don Storey, a veteran of the vending industry, whose life was cut short in the 1960s.


“I can think of many that deserve it before me,” he says. “When you look back at the past recipients, you see that most have reached a lot more years of experience in this industry. It was a complete and utter surprise.”

The 2008 Don Storey Award winner Brian Martell with his wife Lydia and children Eric and Theodore.

Of course, those around him or those have worked with him over the years think different. A man of great intellect and wit, Martell shares his thoughts openly in his column for this magazine, and to those in the coffee industry seeking guidance. And each April Fool’s Day would hardly be the same without some sort of faux news announcement circulated from him.

Martell began his career with Heritage Coffee in 1992, working in the Montreal office for the roaster. Since that time he has advanced from a sales position to his current title of chief operating officer.

In the same period, Heritage has also grown, and evolved. When Martell joined the company it was also involved in the foodservice industry, direct sales and distribution. The company divested itself of that in 1997, and turned its focus to its core competencies.

“It worked out nicely … but not without its pain,” says Martell. “But after that we were able to deal directly with our distributors that handled foodservice and regain our poundage.”

Martell credits the organizational structure of Heritage for being able to manage the change and penetrate new markets, including Ontario.

“We were able to communicate what we do outside of Quebec. But there’s a lot more to an organization than just sales.”

It was around that time that Martell became involved with the Canadian Automatic Merchandising Association. Martell chaired two successful Montreal trade shows: 2001 and 2003.

And while he admits the timing of those events, the people involved, and the change of direction taken by the organization at the time were all positives, he does have one regret about his tenure as a director.

“As a director, working with Dan Stewart, my regret was that we couldn’t get the government to reconsider their decision on the coinage and metal content. We met with a lot of people …”

Of course, in the end, the government held fast on the metal changes and vending in Canada was adversely affected.

“But the government didn’t see it the way we saw it. We did what we could, I just wish we could have won.”

As for the coffee industry, Martell remains confident that it is a commodity that can cross all borders, along with tea.

Canada, he points out, is a country of vast diversity in terms of cultural demographics. No matter where someone is from, in terms of immigration to Canada, the global coffee and tea industry has likely
touched on his or her native land. Now, those seeking a new life in Canada have a few common threads tying their past to the present.

“And OCS has the tools to offer that. They’re all tea or coffee consumers.”

While the coffee market itself is extremely mature – some 500 years of trade – it is also stable. Growth in Canada may occur at what Martell terms a glacial rate, but given comparison to other commodities and vendible items, the projected one per cent annual growth is better than tanking like a soda can in a pre-school.

“The OCS operator will need to be more creative in how they approach their services,” Martell says.
The current economic conditions are concerning, as are the impact of changes to the automotive industry in Canada’s central region.

Martell says that while OCS can find new positive partnerships in the changing marketplace, operators also need to be very cautious. In certain situations, OCS is being offered as part of a non-monetary compensation package. If companies are looking to reduce expenses, that free coffee could be among the lost.

In the long term, Martell sees greater efficiencies in terms of OCS technology. Innovation has happened, both for the good and bad, in the past few years and will continue. As for the product, well, what we drink today is pretty much the same as what our ancestors consumed back in the 1500s.

“People are always trying to build a better mousetrap. There will always be some interesting things coming down the line. Will the change be good? It will be good, but it might not be painless.”

As for changes at Heritage, Martell says they too are focused on growth areas that fit their core competencies. Most recently the company acquired a British Columbia-based roaster from Van Houtte, which will allow them greater penetration in the West.

“There is still a lot of work to do.”

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