North American Produce Buyers thrilled to be heading to CPMA
North American Produce Buyers LTD has long been a supporter of the Canadian Produce Marketing Association and its annual trade show. With the big event set to return to an in-person format for the first since COVID-19 sent the world into quarantine, the company is especially excited to participate.
“It’s the perfect segue to get back into the in-person aspect of a business, which we’ve all desperately missed over the course of the past few years,” said Stephan Schmekel, executive vice president of sales and marketing for North American Produce Buyers LTD, headquartered in Toronto. “It’s a very important show for us.”
He added that the CPMA show will be the company’s first face-to-face produce show in Canada since the pandemic — it has been to shows in the United States since things opened up again — and that the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
“People are ready to get back to the convention circuit,” Schmekel said. “I saw it last fall when I was a speaker at the New York show and you could see that the people were ready to come back and socialize. We have a four-person contingent that is going to the show with me and we’re really looking forward to it.”
Schmekel, who serves as a director on the CPMA Board, said the company will be at booth No. 400, where it will be talking about and showcasing the fruit it sells.
“We are the No. 1 importer in Canada of deciduous fruit,” he said. “In that position, we’re always at the forefront of new commodities — we’ve seen some new packaging, and so forth, so we tend to exhibit those to showcase what’s coming and to talk about interesting ideas with both retail communities and the wholesale community.”
One of the hot topics he expects people to discuss at the show is the growing popularity of new varieties of grapes, demand for which he says is increasing dramatically.
“We see these new varieties of green seedless and red seedless that are really offering a tremendously positive experience for the consumer and that offers repeat sales for our customers,” Schmekel said.
The increase in demand for these varieties will be a large focus of the company’s strategy during the event.
“We really want to try to educate our customer base on what we’re seeing as future possible wins for them,” Schmekel, said. “With these new varieties of grapes, whether they’re in the green seedless programs or sweet globes, compared to the older varieties, whether it be Thompsons or sugars, we’re seeing a lot of positive feedback, even though they’re more expensive. Consumers will spend more for that positive experience.”
He explained there are also new red seedless varieties, such as Jack Salutes and sweets, which are growing in popularity compared to older varieties.
“That’s been very positive for our business,” he said. “These specialty grapes are a category where, year over year, we see double-digit growth in all of them. The Cotton Candy was really the forerunner for a lot of these new positive experiences for consumers, and now that’s really spilled over into the red candy and black candy varieties.”
One trend that started with the pandemic, and which isn’t slowing down, is consumers looking to try new foods as they cook more at home.
“The pandemic has broadened their palates for in-house experimentation and trying new and different things,” he said. “We’re seeing that some of these habits are remaining in that people are eating more at home. People are cooking more at home, and they’re trying new things.”
As North American Produce Buyers LTD heads into the big show, business has been strong, though the company has, of course, been dealing with issues related to logistics and freight.
“There have been some challenges, some delays, so it has been an interesting year,” Schmekel said. “But overall, from a business perspective it has been very positive. We continue to strive, within out company, we own a logistics company as well, which allows us to maneuver with the ebb and flow and turn around on a dime, so to speak, when situations arise. So that has given us a definitely a competitive advantage.”