The National Automatic Merchandising Association's Coffee, Tea and Water show has grown over six years from a small gathering in Cherry Hill, NJ, to a sold-out symposium with a distinguished lineup of speakers that organizers predict will draw record crowds to Nashville in November. Doing double-duty as NAMA chairman and co-chairman of this year's CT&W show is Pete Tullio of World Wide Vending and Gourmet Coffee Service (Van Nuys, CA).
PHOTO: NAMA chairman Pete Tullio on a coffee plantation in Costa Rica.
The vending and coffee service operator has served for six years on NAMA's board and executive committee and was honored as the association's 2013 Industry Person of the Year. His father, Peter Tullio Sr., launched the family business in 1978, in southern California. At the time, the NAMA chairman was an attorney in Chicago when his father convinced him to join him in World Wide Vending, a small amusement and cigarette vending operation he had purchased. His father died a year later and his brother, Bob, soon joined him as a partner, also moving from the Midwest. They went on to found Gourmet Coffee Service, which has grown into a leading southern California OCS provider. Pete's son, Paul Tullio, joined the company in 2003 and now manages its Orange County office. He is chairing NAMA's new Emerging Leaders Network.
Vending Times caught up with Tullio in the midst of his busy travel schedule for his thoughts on what sets this year's CT&W show apart and his outlook for the industry. In short, he says there's no better time to be an office coffee service provider and no better place to learn, network and become acquainted with industry-leading technologies and products than at CT&W.
How is your first three months as chairman going?
It's been a whirlwind tour. I've traveled to NAMA state council meetings across the country, including those by the Southeast Vending Association and Northwest Automatic Vending Association, and the associations in Arizona and California. There was also an orientation for NAMA's new directors in late August in Chicago, followed by a NAMA Foundation meeting. Next on my agenda are an executive committee meeting and Texas Automatic Merchandising Association and Oklahoma Vending Association meeting. It's important to go to as many state association meetings as possible. It gives me a good pulse on the industry, and I'm seeing and hearing a lot of excitement from one coast to the other. That's not to say there are no challenges, but we are doing a great job at banding together to address issues.
The OneShow and Coffee, Tea & Water show are in a continued growth cycle, which is another reason it's a great time to be the chair of NAMA, which is something for which Carla Balakgie and Dan Mathews and the rest of the team deserve tremendous credit.
How is CT&W show shaping up? How does it compare with last year's biggest-ever show in New Orleans?
All indications are that we're looking at a record event, in terms of both attendance and exhibitors. Exhibit space is sold out with 115 suppliers. That's up 15% over 101 exhibits at last year's show in New Orleans. Initial registration data suggests strong participation from operators across the country. With great education, products, networking and ideas -- and the draw of Nashville -- it's a can't-miss event if you're involved in the coffee and water segment.
Last year's CT&W had 16 educational programs. How does this year's show stack up? What's new and different?
Even better! We have 13 educational sessions planned, a few less than last year, but for a reason. We've increased networking time and expanded exhibit hours at the request of suppliers, which will give them more time to meet with operators. We've finally gained international recognition in the coffee world, much of which is a direct result of NAMA's coffee origin trip to Costa Rica in February. It helped us develop a bigger footprint as an industry and make it known that as a coffee community, we are a large part of coffee purchased around the world.
Juan Esteban Orduz of the Colombian Coffee Federation of international acclaim will be a keynote speaker, discussing quality and sustainability, which are of key interest among today's operators. And Stephen Twining, of tea fame, will share his insight on tea, which continues to grow in popularity.
Eric Dell, NAMA's senior vice-president of government affairs, will discuss the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act that goes into effect in January. This new law will require a lot of retrofitting by operators to be compliant, making it a very important session.
[Editor's note: The federal law amends the Safe Drinking Water Act and sets new, lower standards for the amount of lead permissible in plumbing products that come into contact with potable water. The new law reduces the permissible levels of lead in the wet surfaces of pipes, pipefittings, plumbing fittings and fixtures to a weighted average of not more than 0.25%]
Micromarkets are a new phenomenon that coffee service operators are looking at as a profit center they can integrate into their businesses. A panel discussion at CT&W will cover integration of hot beverages into the market environment, and how to make a distinction between coffee provided free to employees and provided at a cost in micromarkets.
NAMA's new Emerging Leaders Network has had an incredible response around the country and a panel of these young industry leaders of the future will educate us on social media marketing.
CT&W will also cover tea and ice, single-serve developments and industry research on what drives OCS decision-makers in the workplace. And our popular WIN breakfast with a surprise speaker -- I don't even know who it is -- returns.
How has IBWA's partnership impacted the show?
It's a good fit, and was successful last year. So CT&W will again collocate with the International Bottled Water Association's meeting, with 40 exhibits under one roof with NAMA. We've come an extremely long way. Water is integrated into what coffee operators do today. Members of the two associations have many common interests, so it's a good thing to have IBWA involved. There's also strength in numbers with hot button issues like Prop 65 in California that can come from NAMA's partnership with IBWA.
What did Gourmet Coffee Service do for this year's National Coffee Service Month?
This is Gourmet Coffee's second year taking part in the monthlong celebration in September. We educate our drivers on what OCS month means so they can converse with our customers. We have an active Facebook page where we put out a call for any of our customers to take a picture with the Joe on the Job icon. They are entered into a drawing for two to win high-end headphones.
There's been a lot of interest; we had 25 responses in the first hours on the first day. Our sales and customer service people are heavily involved. When you combine coffee and fun, life is good! It's good for the coffee industry as a whole, and particularly good for OCS. Hopefully, National Coffee Service Month will get stronger and stronger.
From your perspective as an OCS operator, is this a good time to be in the business?
The opportunity in our industry is as good as ever. From the OCS perspective, it's a growing one. Our business has been expanding for several years. We're over the recession hump, budgets are back and employment numbers are returning. Our trade is related to the number of people in the workforce, so now that businesses and industries are rehiring, we're moving forward.
Single cup has expanded and grown. We can provide locations with coffeehouse-quality beverages -- and now that they have the money to spend, they're happy to spend it.
Vending sales have leveled off, after declining, and are starting to increase. We have a substantial vending presence and see resurgence. All of the efficiencies brought by new technologies have increased sales, but not as much as coffee's rapid pace upwards.
Our biggest worry is our friends in government. Eric Dell has done a phenomenal job during his first nine months, arranging events like NAMA's fall public policy conference in Washington, and local and regional efforts to defend the industry by establishing relationships to cut off adverse legislation. A lot is about educating legislators that we're people and we're a pretty big industry. Giving them our input is a good thing. Our government affairs department is as strong as it's ever been, working for great results.
It's a great time to be in our industry.