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The family portrait of the folks who make up the produce industry is changing.

Old and new generations stand side by side. Different nationalities join the picture. More women are taking over decision-making positions. New players enter the scene and strategic alliances are formed.

The ways we work are different too. Many processes are now automated and computerized. There's a new awareness about sustainable development. Higher health and safety standards and global trade make new demands. More and more rules govern business and trade, and must be followed to the letter of the law.

People’s relationship to food has also changed and evolved. There’s a new kind of joy in eating and cooking. Star chefs are watched by millions. But at the same time we’ve seen an end of culinary snobbism and a new appreciation of quality sources and freshness in food products. Witness the ideas of safety, fast delivery and flexibility that have become integral to the concept of food products as we now know them.

Society, overexposed to advertising and the ever-growing power of today’s social media, follows these trends and changes accordingly. It seems we spend 44 minutes a day thinking about what we eat. We have literally thousands of choices. What this means in context is that we have a real, ongoing challenge over how we get our products to consumers’ plates five to 10 times a day.

According to a survey in June 2009, nearly 60 percent of Quebecers know about our "Hearts" campaign — an excellent awareness rating for such a young campaign.

Credit for this success is certainly due to our members’ support through the “I Love” contest and lottery, our partners who have given the campaign ongoing exposure and our spokesperson Julie DesGroseilliers, who’s always so convincing whenever she’s talking about the pleasure and health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables.

The government of Quebec, in response to appeals from all sides, has also stepped up its efforts, and we were proud to take part in projects likes Mettez le Québec dans votre assiette (Put Quebec on your plate) promoting buy-local practices, the Fruits et légumes en vedette (Starring fruits and vegetables) program for restaurant owners and the Concours École Active (Active Schools competition) for schools — all of which have had direct impact on people’s health.

By the same token, the Quebec Produce Marketing Association has developed closer relations with our province’s schools and the hotel, restaurant and institutional (HRI) sector, where the fresh produce industry has major potential for new market share.

The QPMA makes it our mission to be at the center of these realities and communicate with you in real time via our web site, info emails, newsletters and other tools that carry the crucial information you and your business need in order to succeed. Besides this, we also put a lot of energy into networking opportunities for you, by organizing quality events every year like our Oyster Party, Cocktail & Texas Hold ’Em Poker Night, golf tournament and annual convention. The fresh contacts made at these events, and all the great friendships revived and reinforced, certainly add up to a win-win strategy for everybody concerned.

Our experience, professional knowledge and direct involvement in all these different contexts are the reason why the QPMA has been the industry association of choice for 63 years.

More than ever, the QPMA is doing its job to grow and facilitate the fresh produce industry, working in concert with our partners in Quebec and the rest of Canada, the members of our board of directors, QPMA governors, full- time staff members — and you, members of the QPMA, whose needs and requirements in our industry are the No. 1 mission for all of us.

(Sophie Perreault is the executive director of the Quebec Produce Marketing Association.)