Gourmet Trading's Chris Martin dies

07/24/2012 03:11:00 PM
Andy Nelson

Martin(UPDATED COVERAGE, July 25, 10:53 a.m.) Chris Martin, president of Los Angeles-based Gourmet Trading Co., died July 23.

Martin, Gourmet Trading’s president since 1988, died of an apparent heart attack while on vacation with his family in Santa Barbara, Calif., according to a Gourmet Trading official. He was 48.

In a statement, Paul Martin, Chris Martin’s brother and partner in Gourmet Trading, praised his brother’s vision in turning their company into a worldwide supplier of asparagus, blueberries and other fruits and vegetables.

“We mourn the loss of Chris, whose honesty, fairness and integrity have established the lasting values by which our company will continue to operate successfully as we move on,” Paul Martin said.

A fellow asparagus importer, Walter Yager, chief executive officer of Miami-based Alpine Fresh, first got to know Martin 25 years ago.

Yager remembers Martin, a New Zealand native, as an excellent businessman and leader.

“He was a great competitor, and he did a great job of building his company up,” Yager said. “He will be very, very sorely missed.”

Gourmet Trading, founded in 1982, is the sole distributor of Green Giant fresh asparagus and also a distributor of Green Giant fresh blueberries. The company has farms in California and Peru and a packing facility in Washington.

Martin, who was the West Coast co-chairman of the Miami-based Peruvian Asparagus Importers Association, is widely regarded as one of the first importers to recognize Peru’s potential as an asparagus growing region.

Priscilla Lleras, the association’s coordinator, said Martin was admired by many as an asparagus industry leader.

“Chris’s service to the industry goes beyond words,” Lleras said. “He went on Capitol Hill to stand for the issues of our industry and trade advancements. He traveled from farm to market and across the nation making sure asparagus has a strong presence in the U.S. market.”

In 2011, the U.S. Department of Agriculture named Martin as an alternate member of the Folsom, Calif.-based U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council.

Mark Villata, the council’s executive director, praised Martin’s active participation in the council and his love for the blueberry business.

“It’s great to have people serving who are that passionate about the product,” he said. “His dedication to the industry was clearly evident. He’ll be missed.”


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Luis Salazar    
Mexicali; B.C.  |  July, 24, 2012 at 03:55 PM

A great friend and businessman. I have the oportunity to work with him seting up asparagus deals in Mexico, 15 years ago. I will miss him. Luis Salazar

Shay Zeltzer    
Israel  |  July, 25, 2012 at 09:31 AM

Over the last 10 years I had the pleasure and honor to work with Chris on various projects including the introduction of advanced packaging technologies and operations improvements for asparagus and blueberries. Chris became a friend and a customer and I've always enjoyed discussing with him business opportunities and challenges, social issues, politics of the world, progressive agriculture and a lot more. Chris was so curious about many different subjects, an interesting conv. He was a great listner, smart and interesting conversation partner. He set example with his leadership and management style. Chris will be very much missed. My condolences to his family and co-workers.

Gian Paolo Bassi    
Santiago, Chile  |  July, 25, 2012 at 11:50 PM

I had the opportunity to meet for about 18 years, and that excellent working business relationship and personal friendship that I was able to keep with him, is the reason why I wish to express my deepest condolences, especially to his family and also for those who form the team of gourmet trading company. A great loss, of a great person and a very good friend. I will always remember you.

Linda Smith    
Auckland, New Zealand  |  July, 30, 2012 at 10:27 PM

I knew Chris well back before he left NZ for the big lights of LA... remember fondly the fun times we had at Woodhill and Kumeu and the great group of people that used to hang out together. My heart goes out to his family. With love, Linda (nee Nunn)

Eryvan Pires    
Netherlands  |  August, 01, 2012 at 11:00 AM

Great man. I had some contacts while doing mangoes in the year 2000-2003 and had good moments with his company.

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