Embassy Flavours Ltd.

Ambassadors of Flavour

How Embassy Flavours Ltd. rises to challenges in a changing food market

There is something to be said for longevity in any business—especially when sustaining an unchallenged niche in the Canadian market.

Although son Martino respects these humble beginnings, when Embassy Food and Supply Ltd. declared bankruptcy in 1981, he took action.

The speciality food industry was in Martino’s blood, and with only $5,000 sales his first year, Martino Brambilla decided it was time to make it on his own, at just 17 years old. Embassy grew quickly, and Martino accrued experience making flavours and specialising in low-concentration flavours that were sold to bakeries.

Brambilla is passionate about what he does, but it wasn’t passion that motivated him to build a business when he was a young man, it was “the absolute desire not to fail, and sheer hard work”. The hard worked certainly paid off. Brambilla has grown Embassy Flavours into a small business success story.

This past year, the company boasted an increase in revenues of 12 per cent—not bad for a company built from scratch.

Adapting to change

Things have changed quickly in the food market since Embassy began, but Brambilla is not afraid to adapt to shifts in demand for his products. In 1992, the company started to develop and manufacture bread and cake mixes, selling them so that Embassy could increase its presence in the bakery industry.

The year 1994 marked a new level of success for Brambilla and his crew—Embassy reached $1,000,000 in sales for the year and the company expanded once again. The company moved into a larger and more modernised facility in the Greater Toronto Area and hired on several people.

Of course industries change, and as the bakery industry moved away from smaller operations towards bigger wholesalers, Embassy adapted by selling more of its concentrated flavours.

Brambilla was thrilled when the company he worked so hard to build was featured on Profit magazine’s “Profit 100” list of Canada’s fastest growing companies. The coverage marked the beginning of another phase of growth. Eventually, Embassy had to move into a new manufacturing plant to accommodate the increased business it was experiencing, and, in 2004, the entire enterprise moved to Brampton.

All of this happened under the watchful eye of Brambilla, who was careful to make sure the company always met or exceeded HACCP quality assurance standards. To this day, he is an advocate for food companies meeting HACCP standards. “Being HACCP certified makes us a better company—and it also happens to be a great marketing tool. You’re a serious contender in our business if you’re an unknown and competing with multinationals but you are HACCP certified.”

Regardless of market shifts, Embassy has a clearly defined vision and adheres to it today. “Our vision for Embassy’s future is the same as it has always been: continuous, sustainable growth made possible by quality products, service and satisfied clientele.”

Doing business internationally

Embassy has enjoyed the good fortune that comes with expanding its products to international markets. “We’ve spent over half a million dollars investing in making our own flavours” Brambilla explains, “so I’ve tried to expand into markets south of the border, including the U.S. and Mexico.”

Embassy manufactures its products that are for the Mexican market in Mexico, which helps the local market focus. He adds that some might wonder if products made in Mexico must follow the same high Canadian standards, but Brambilla’s last couple of trips south proved to him that Mexico was a wonderful place to do business, particularly from a safety and quality perspective. “I was thoroughly impressed with the safety and standards, and will continue to develop the business in Mexico,” Brambilla promises.

Flavour offerings

• Apple Type Flavour Natural

• Magarita Type Flavour Natural

• Butter Type Flavour Natural

• Parmesan Cheese Type Flavour Natural

• Asiago Cheese Type Flavour Natural

• Cheddar Cheese Type Flavour Natural

• Blueberry Type Flavour Natural

• Pistashio Flavour Natural & Artificial

• B.M. White Euro-Sponge Mix

• Irish Cream Concentrate

• Garlic Flavour Natural

• Pomegranate Type Flavour Natural

• Black Cherry Flavour Natural & Artificial

• Brandy Flavour Natural & Artificial

• Butter Type Flavour Natural

By existing in a niche market internationally, the company has ensured stability. “The major users of flavours are in the beverage industry,” says Brambilla. “So what we’ve done to ensure we stay competitive in this space is operate a flavour and bakery mix plant under one facility,” he explains. Embassy customers can get everything they want under one roof.

“What operating in a niche has done for us is this: we’re the only company in this space, and so when go to a client, and they want to know why they should deal with us, it’s clear. We’re better because we’re focused on our niche market, and we can outperform even the bigger multinational companies.”

All of Embassy’s R&D work is done in Canada, with their sales and distribution team housed in Canada with a licensee in Mexico. The company now has 32 employees covering the Embassy product portfolio.

Regardless of where Embassy goes, they are most certainly going to stick to their niche, as they find more ways to meet customer demands. “Shifts in market trends have affected both the flavours side and bakery mix side of the business. Despite the hype, consumer reduction of carbohydrate consumption was a mere blip on our business. However, we know that foods going natural will have a much bigger affect on our company’s strategy. We now have a whole slew of natural cake mixes with natural flavours and colours, which is a great advantage because on the bakery side. A customer can come and get both their flavours and colours from us. This will be a permanent trend—going to all natural products,” says Brambilla.

Going forward

Brambilla has big plans for his business. After moving facilities to accommodate growth more than once, and watching sales come in steadily, he is positioning his business for 2010 and into the next decade. “Right now, we’re reanalyzing our market strategy in order to adapt,” he says. Despite a bad time for world economies, Embassy did quite well in the last few quarters, although Brambilla did say that increased price pressure from retailers curtailed some business in the industry. “Some of our customers saw reduced margins over the past 12 to 24 months, but things are only going to improve,” he reasons, preferring to remain optimistic.

In any scenario, the company looks well able to take on whatever shifts the market holds, and looks to stay innovative and approach business aggressively as the economy improves. To find out more about Embassy, its products, and even some recipe ideas, visit the corporate website, or simply call the head office. Brambilla will be more than happy to share with you how Embassy “mixes things up” in the food industry.