The Big Interview: Molson Coors' Martyn Cozens

By Robyn Black

- Last updated on GMT

Molson Coors' Martyn Cozens: 'A rugby-loving South Wales valleys boy'
Molson Coors' Martyn Cozens: 'A rugby-loving South Wales valleys boy'

Related tags Molson coors Molson coors brewing company

Following the rebranding of Molson Coors Wholesale last month, Robyn Black talks to its director of independent on-premise, Martyn Cozens, about his plans to make the business the ‘John Lewis’ for pubs

The independent free- trade is an important part of the Molson Coors business — accounting for half of UK sales for the American brewer.

Recently, the arm looking after the sector has been rebranded, dropping the ‘wholesale’ moniker in favour of ‘Service. Choice. Trust.’ And, while cynics might dismiss the move as a mere marketing exercise, the man in charge, Martyn Cozens, is keen to show it demonstrates a far more meaningful change than that.

Cozens, director of independent on-premise, has worked in the industry his entire career. He joined Bass Brewers fresh out of a business degree at Leicester Polytechnic (now De Montfort University), in the mid-1980s, in the ‘glamorous’ role of load planning supervisor.

A rugby-loving South Wales valleys boy, the 51-year-old has worked his way through the ranks, sticking with the brewery as it changed from Bass, to briefly to what is now AB InBev, before Molson Coors bought the business in 2002.

He has held a series of roles in account management, customer marketing, mergers and acquisitions and landed his current role three years ago, replacing Simon Cox, who went on to become the UK managing director and, latterly, the brewer’s chief executive for Europe.

Cozens now leads the 200 strong team that looks after the independent on-trade at Molson Coors, reporting into Frederic Landtmeters, managing director UK and Ireland. For him, the relaunch is the culmination of nearly three years of hard work.

Customer feedback

“A few years ago we took a step back and said, ‘OK, what does being first choice for customers really mean?’ We wanted to know what that looked like and to really understand what they wanted from us as a supplier.

“As a result we invested heavily in independent research and established a programme, running to this day, talking to some 3,000 to 4,000 of our customers every year, asking what’s important to them.”

This body of research has provided the basis of a branch-and-root overhaul of the wholesale arm to ensure the business is all about prioritising customer service, something the new branding is intended to reflect.

“Across all of the touch-points, whether that’s order capture, selling, distribution or technical services, we ask customers how we rate and how they see us against our competitors. That manifests itself in a ‘net promoter score’, which is a recognised measure of customer service. We also survey our competitors’ customers, to understand their net promotor scores, which is clearly important if you want to build a distinctive position in the market place around customer service.”

Cozens has succeeded in moving Molson Coors’ net promotor score from 28 to 64 in two short years and has ambitions to take it above 70 this year, as he looks to gain a reputation for the business as the “John Lewis of wholesale”.

“How are we going to do that? Well, I’d say so far there’s been three areas of investment.”

The first is around people. Molson Coors has the biggest on-trade sales force for the independent on-trade in the UK and, within a few short months, it will also be the only brewer to have its technical services team entirely in-house.

“We are in the middle of recruiting 50 further technicians, which will make the technical services team about a third bigger. The result will be that rather than having to sub-contract out-of-hours, weekend work, and some of the bigger installations, all of this can be done in-house.

“Currently, we outsource about a third of the technical work but our research shows that when we do that, the quality of the work and the quality of the interaction with people is not as good as our own team, so we are investing to improve that.”

One-stop shop

Another area of investment has been around range and not just the brewer’s own brands but its portfolio of third-party brands (ie, brands it supplies but does not own).

“If we go back to thinking about how to be first choice for customers, we believe they want one point-of-order capture, one delivery, one invoice and one contact point for their drinks needs.

Therefore, what’s important is to be able to have a portfolio of drinks — we’ve invested heavily in that and now have more than 2,000 products across wines, spirits, ciders and soft drinks — in order that we can be that one-stop shop solution for our customers.

Cozens denies that brewing own brands on the one hand, and selling competitor brands on the other, causes any conflict because “you have to come back to the question of what does the customer want? Customers want a broad choice of drinks brands across all categories.”

In practice, that means where wine, for example, is more important to a publican’s business than beer, the Molson Coors team has to be able, not just to offer a wide range of wines (700 at the last count), but to be able to talk knowledgeably about them too.

“If we get it right and get that offer right [for the customers], during time it opens up more opportunities for our brands than not.”

Business benchmarks

As Cozens and his team approach that all-important ‘70’ score, however, there is more to do if the business is to rival John Lewis — and even Apple, another of Cozen’s benchmarks for good customer service.

Future wins will come from yet more score improvement, in this case raising the company’s ratio of ‘perfect orders’.

“We’ve worked hard with our distribution partner DHL on this. It’s really about the basics of customer service — ensuring that whatever a customer orders, turns up on time, in full, with a courteous crew, that puts the beer and the drinks in the right place, and takes away the empties. It sounds pretty simple but it is really important.

“Our ambition is to get to 100% perfect orders [it currently sits at about 96%] and just to illustrate, if there’s one single bottle broken in transit that is an imperfect order, so it’s a really harsh method on which to set your standards. It has to be about getting down to that level of detail, those kind of hard yards that is really important in delivering exceptional basics to your customers.”

Global reach

Injecting the wholesale arm with this customer service ethos has already reaped rewards for the UK business. The company has added 1,250 net new customers since the strategy launched and, according to Cozens, Molson Coors was the only UK brewer to grow market share in both the on and off-trade last year — but it is also promising to have benefits across global business.

“It’s interesting the global business has now put being ‘first choice for consumers’ at the heart of everything and it forms the centre of our strategic framework.

“All that has essentially come out of the work we’ve been doing here and it’s very satisfying to see that strategy go global for the whole Molson Coors enterprise.”


Key dates

1986: Joins Bass Brewery on the trainee graduate scheme

2002: Molson Coors Brewing Company buys Bass Breweries from Interbrew (now AB InBev)

2011: Molson Coors buys Cornish brewery Sharp’s

2012: Cozens succeeds Simon Cox as director of independent on-premise

2015: Molson Coors Wholesale relaunched as Molson Coors: Service. Choice. Trust.

My kind of pub

“I am a big fan of the bar at the Angel Hotel, in Abergavenny

“Despite being a hotel bar, this place has a distinct pub vibe. It’s always full of people, from 18 to 80-year-olds, and it’s great for whatever you want, whether that’s a coffee, a beer, a wine or a family meal.

“The owners have really invested in it recently, which has resulted in exceptional standards without it feeling pretentious or uncomfortable in any way.

“I’d start with a pint of Sharp’s Atlantic, then a spaghetti carbonara with a nice glass of white wine. Perfect.”

Related topics Beer

Related news