Upbeat convention sets record for CPMA
by Tim Linden | May 19, 2010
VANCOUVER, BC -- Perhaps mirroring a rebounding economy that was
touted throughout the gathering, the Canadian Produce Marketing
Association's 85th annual convention and trade show set an attendance
record when more than 3,300 produce professionals participated in the
event, held here May 12-14.
The convention has expanded tremendously in recent years, and this year
was no exception as the trade show registered a 25 percent increase in
exhibitors over the last time Vancouver was the host city, which makes it the
largest show ever. The event was peppered with general and business
sessions as well as networking opportunities.
The convention got off to a rousing start as the keynote speaker at the
opening general session Thursday, May 13, gave a very optimistic assessment
of the economy and Canada's ability to emerge as a leader of the recovery in
this changing economic climate.
Frank Feathers, who was billed as a global business expert and futurist, said
that there are very strong signs that Canada is coming out of the recession
faster than its closest neighbor (the United States) and well ahead of its
European counterparts. He added that because of the country's conservative
lending habits, Canada did not have to climb out of as big a hole as others,
including the United States and the European Union.
He also said that Canada didn't have a housing crisis, largely because the
banking industry took a conservative approach and did not make a lot of
loans to people who had no visible means of paying those loans back.
While Mr. Feathers bragged about Canada's recent economic performance, he
did predict that the Canadian dollar would slide against the U.S. dollar
heading back to a value of about 90 U.S cents.
The best-selling author believes that the United States will follow closely
behind Canada down the road to recovery, "but the [European Union] and
Japan will recover much more slowly."
He said that Japan has a long way to go and that it will probably be 2011
before that Asian nation shows signs of recovery. As far as Europe is
concerned, Mr. Feathers said that recovery is totally dependent upon
Germany, which has to be the economic engine fueling the EU's recovery.
Across the globe, Mr. Feathers said that China has nothing to worry about as
it has huge cash reserves and is moving toward a consumer-driven economy
rather than one dependent on exports. He scoffed at predictions that China is
also headed toward economic ruin.
"There is no way China is going to collapse," he said, pointing to its high
savings rate and its growth. "China is a huge economy on a giant run" with an
economic growth rate of at least 8 percent annually over the next several
Having given his perspective of the global economy, Mr. Feathers turned his
attention toward consumer trends, which he said bode very well for the fresh
produce industry. Speaking mostly about Canadian consumers, he predicted
that over the coming years baby boomers will develop a "depression era
mindset" because of the difficult economic times that they have just had to
face. He said that the deep economic slump in the United States and Canada
has changed buying habits and that consumers will not go back to their pre-
"There will continue to be a focus on value," he said. "They will spend less
and save more."
He believes that one way this will manifest itself is families will stay home and
cook more often. This, of course, is good news for the fresh food industry,
which would then see a greater utilization of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Mr. Feathers also predicted that people will strive for a better balance
between life and work. He sees the trend toward being "green" continuing,
which he said is also good news for the produce industry because people
want a healthier planet and a healthier lifestyle.
He also believes that the current trend toward increasingly tech-savvy
consumers will continue. He said that the use of the Internet will continue to
explode into what he called a "webolution."
Mr. Feathers urged produce companies to take advantage of these trends by
customizing, digitizing and innovating. He explained that consumers are
looking for new and better ways to do everything, including eat. They also
want information presented in a tech-friendly way.
The theme of recovery was also evident at several business sessions
throughout the convention. In a session devoted to ethnic marketing, many
speakers discussed the booming growth of the Asian community in Canada.
Most estimated that the number of Asians in Canada will more than double
over the next 20 years. The demographic is relatively affluent, and its
members consume a very high percentage of fruits and vegetables in their
Bernadette Hamel, vice president of procurement and merchandising for
Metro Richelieu Inc., said that Asian consumers spend more time at the
supermarket, take more trips and buy more fruits and vegetables. While some
say Asian shoppers are looking for great deals and are focused on price, Ms.
Hamel said that to appeal to these consumers, retailers may have to lower
their margins on produce, but they should make them up with significantly
Another speaker -- Randy Friesen, director of marketing and communications
at the British Columbia Institute of Technology -- said that the explosion in
the Asian population has led to what he called "acculturation," which is both
the immigrant Asian and the native Canadian populations learning from each
other and adopting habits from each other. He said that one obvious example
that plays out everyday in Canada is at local coffee shops, which are seeing
Asians drinking coffee and Caucasians drinking green tea.
Fresh Health Award
Another highlight of the CPMA convention was the presentation of The
Produce News 2010 Fresh Health Award to Peak of the Market, a grower-
owned, not-for-profit organization headquartered in Manitoba. In presenting
the award at the May 13 luncheon, John Groh, editor and publisher of The
Produce News, recognized the firm for supporting Canada's healthy eating
programs and for its penchant for innovative promotions.
At last year's CPMA convention, Peak of the Market held a raffle for a Smart
Car that raised more than $30,000 to help launch CPMA's "Mix it up!"
program, which is the successor to its "5 to 10 a Day" effort. Peak of the
Market President and Chief Executive Officer Larry McIntosh accepted the
prestigious award on behalf of the firm.
Other award winners were Carmina Halstead of Norfolk Organics, who
received the Mary FitzGerald Award; and Rick Wallis of The Oppenheimer
Group, Michael Mockler of Thrifty Foods, and Art Heppner of Overwaitea Food
Group, who all received CPMA Lifetime Achievement Awards.
CPMA's new consumer marketing campaign, Fruits & Veggies -- Mix It Up!,
which launched to the public March 1, received its official industry launch at
this year's convention. Attendees were introduced to the full details of the
campaign including media advertising pieces, sponsorship opportunities and
the new web site (www.fruitsandveggies.ca).
Also new in 2010 was the Passion for Produce pilot program, designed by
CPMA's education committee, to provide 11 rising stars in the produce
industry the opportunity to expand their knowledge of the supply chain
through mentorship and participation in various events.