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CPMA draws praise for 94th annual convention

MONTREAL — The Canadian Produce Marketing Association’s 94th annual convention, held April 2-5, here, was a resounding success, according to association officials and member companies, who cited strong traffic on the expo floor and enthusiastic participation at the convention programming.

“It’s our biggest Quebec show by attendance, and we’re trending above our last time in Montreal,” said Ron Lemaire, president of the CPMA. “U.S. and Canadian participation were strong, so we were pleased with that. And I was especially pleased with second-day traffic at this show.”Bernadette-HamelBernadette Hamel, formerly with Metro Richelieu Inc., received the CPMA Lifetime Achievement Award during the association’s 94th annual convention in Montreal.

According to CPMA, exhibitors representing over 300 companies accounted for 53,500 square feet of booth space on the trade show floor. Among those were 143 international exhibitors, 132 Canadian exhibitors (including 30 exhibitors from Quebec), and 39 first-time exhibitors. The 2019 New Product Showcase included 54 products from 39 different companies.

“But we’re not looking to be a big show,” he said. “Our main focus is to provide value to our members and exhibitors.”

Lemaire also pointed to a strong buyer attendance as a major reason for the success of the convention. He said Alibaba, the largest online retailer in the world, was a first-time attendee of the convention, which demonstrated the importance of the event.

The international representation at the convention was one of the most impressive statistics in Lemaire’s eyes.

“We had 25 different countries represented at the Embassy reception, including all five continents,” he said. “To me, this means that people and companies from around the world are seeing the value of the Canadian market and the value of what Canada has to offer.”

Also notable was the number of young people who participated in the convention. “Every booth seemed to have a millennial in it,” said Lemaire. “We still have longtime veterans, but companies are bringing in new blood, which is so important. If we don’t bring in the future, we will stall growth. Produce is still very much and person-to-person business, and that’s why it is so important to engage the younger generation.”

The successful convention in Montreal is a good way to springboard into next year’s convention in Toronto, said Lemaire.

“Our incoming chair is Oleen Smethurst of Costco, and her big thing is flavor,” said Lemaire. “She travels the world looking for items that have great flavor, so Flavor is the theme of next year’s convention.”

Lemaire also stressed the importance of experiencing the CPMA convention at each of the three locales – Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver – as each provides a different experience.

“All the core buyers attend the convention, so it is important to be here,” he said. “And it’s also important to attend the three different locations, as each one has unique attributes.”

Lemaire’s enthusiasm about the 2019 convention was matched by many of the attendees who spoke with The Produce News during the waning hours of the expo.

“As a Canadian company, we like to connect with our roots, and the CPMA enables us to do that each year,” said Chris Veillon, chief marketing officer at Pure Flavor. “The CPMA is important for our industry and we are pleased to support the organization and sponsor the convention. Each location in Canada provides a unique perspective, and that is especially true for Montreal, which has a European flair. The convention provides a good opportunity to meet new people and make new contacts, and it gives us a forum to tell our story. It’s an event that has contributed to the success of our company.”

“As always, CPMA delivered a high-energy, thought-provoking program,” said Karin Gardner, director of corporate communications at Oppy. “We enjoyed getting a firsthand look at some of the association’s latest initiatives, including the customized tool that illustrates how companies can reduce food waste through greater efficiencies, and an interactive dashboard to help us better understand Canadian consumer attitudes about our products. Montreal provided a memorable backdrop for catching up with customers and appreciating the opportunities our industry has to grow together.”

“The smaller, intimate shows like CPMA provide a better experience for us, since it allows for good conversations and productive meetings,” said David Ranscht, who was on hand to represent Dan Graiff Farms. “Montreal is a great city and the people here are very friendly. We were very pleased with both the number of attendees and the quality of visitors to our booth.”

“This year’s convention in Montreal was a very positive experience for us,” said Ray Wowryk of NatureFresh. “We experienced high traffic at our booth, and the many retail attendees provided new business opportunities for us. Our brand and our market share have been growing in eastern Canada, so it was important for us to be here in Montreal this year to continue getting our name out to the trade.”

The following awards were presented during the 2019 CPMA convention:

  • CPMA Lifetime Achievement Award: Bernadette Hamel formerly of Metro Richelieu Inc.
  • The Produce Person of the Year Award: Les Mallard of Fyffes North America Inc.
  • Mary Fitzgerald Award: Ryan Goad of Loblaw Cos.
  • CPMA Corporate Culture Award: Canadawide Fruit Wholesalers Inc.
  • Fresh Health Award: EarthFresh
  • Best Island Booth Award: EarthFresh
  • Best Inline Booth Award: Fresherized Foods (Wholly Guacamole)
  • Best First-Time Exhibitor Booth: Greenhouse
  • Best New Product Award: Caulilini Sweet Stem Cauliflower by Mann Packing Co. Inc.
  • Freggie Approved Product Award: CuteCumber Poppers by Mucci Farms
  • Packaging Innovation Award: "Zip Pop" Dual compartment Steam bag by Schur Star Systems Inc.
  • Organics Award: SUNSET Organic Angel Sweet by Mastronardi Produce Ltd.