The Way I See It

Dec. 10, 2010

I noted last month that the National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA) has signaled a willingness to be a stronger force for change. In response to this ambitious position, I think the outstanding turnout at this fall's CoffeeShow offers an opportunity for NAMA to "put itself on the map" in one of the industry's promising product categories: coffee.

Every year in the coffee event's 3-year history, the quality of the education program has improved.

Beginning with an intensive coffee certification training program, the 2-day show offers sessions on every aspect of managing a coffee service business, from team building to marketing to taste testing.

A Mandate For Leadership

The program has reached a milestone in coffee education, and the time has come to recognize its application to other industries.

NAMA has done for OCS what the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) did for retail coffee houses. I suspect many NAMA members don't fully grasp the importance of this accomplishment.

During one of the CoffeeShow sessions in Las Vegas, Mike Tompkins of Coffee Products Associates Inc. astutely noted that the SCAA did a great job qualifying the term, "specialty coffee." By developing a provable definition of this term, SCAA gave the coffee trade a key tool to protect itself from commoditization.

It was the SCAA's dedication to coffee excellence that gained support beyond the specialty coffee industry. Serious coffee people in other venues, including OCS, attended SCAA events.

The SCAA's golden cup award became the foundation for the NAMA coffee certification program. But NAMA went a step further and developed a training program that has application beyond its own membership.

NAMA Addresses A Growing Need

Training in coffee cultivation, preparation, brewing, serving and marketing are important to a wide assortment of industries today. And no trade group has addressed this to the degree that NAMA has.

NAMA's program has a lot to offer thousands of restaurants, institutions, school foodservice directors, hotels, convenience stores and yes, coffee shops. With the exception of SCAA, which prides itself on having a select membership, the trade associations serving these affiliated industries have not developed coffee education programs. Hence, NAMA has an opportunity to serve a broader audience.

The big commercial foodservice players are taking coffee seriously, and everyone knows it. But if you're a small restaurant, convenience store or coffee shop, where do you go for training? Where can you go to see new products and equipment?

An Opportunity Awaits NAMA

CoffeeShow can do much to educate segments beyond NAMA's membership. Many non-members would be willing to pay a one-time fee for a high quality coffee education conference.

NAMA has made some efforts to reach out to affiliated coffee industries, but more outreach is needed.

The first step is to make NAMA membership aware of the need for intra-industry outreach.

A commitment to quality in all retail channels will support the OCS industry's need for a well educated coffee consumer.

And a more successful coffee event will provide NAMA the resources to continue to offer valuable education to its members.