QPMA honors two produce industry veterans at 63rd annual convention
by Joel Gebet | August 23, 2010
MONTREAL -- The Quebec produce trade took time out at the Quebec
Produce Marketing Association's 63rd annual convention, held here Aug. 19-
21 at the Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth hotel, to honor two industry veterans
and the contributions they have made.
At the industry brunch Aug. 21, the association paid tribute to Dan Dempster,
president of the Canadian Produce Marketing Association, who will be retiring
in March after almost 35 years at the association.
Mr. Dempster, who was visibly surprised with receiving the honor, told those
attending the brunch that "people are very lucky to be in this industry and are
also very kind. I want to thank my friends in the Quebec industry who over
the years have become very special to me."
At its closing banquet later that night, the association honored Robert
Sawyer, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Montreal-
based retailer Metro Inc., with its coveted 2010 Pillar of the Industry award.
Mr. Sawyer, who has spent 40 years in retail, the majority of them at Metro,
started his career in produce in 1970 at Montreal retailer Steinberg's.
The QPMA president for 2009-10, Stephan Dolbec of Patates Dolbec,
presented the award to Mr. Sawyer, who the former called is "a man of
Mr. Dolbec gave him credit for a strategic study in the late 1990s that "gave
the association its mission and objectives that we still have today."
"He has made a tremendous contribution to the world of fruits and vegetables
and definitely deserves this honor," Mr. Dolbec said.
Changes at the top
George Pitsikoulis, president of Montreal-based Canadawide Fruit
Wholesalers Inc., received the ceremonial gavel from Mr. Dolbec at the
closing banquet and is the QPMA's president for 2010-11. Robert Beauregard
of Montreal-based wholesaler Agri-Mondo Inc. will serve as the association's
first vice president, and Pat Calabretta of Sobeys Quebec Inc. is now its new
second vice president.
The association also welcomed four new members to its board of directors:
Anthony Fantin of Veg Pro International Inc.; Josee Houle of Metro Inc.; Marc-
Andre Chenail of Les Fermes du Soleil Inc.; Nick Meti of Emballages Marcan
Inc.; and Pierre Cayer of Paramount Farms.
In his farewell speech at the closing banquet, Mr. Dolbec said that wanted to
recognize all 11 segments of the industry that are QPMA members, especially
growers, which was why the 2010 convention had a theme of "From the Earth
to the Table."
"I'm only the fourth grower in the association's 63 year history, and I
sincerely hope that other growers will follow this path and make their mark
on the industry," he said.
Mr. Dolbec told The Produce News in an interview earlier in the day that he
was proud of a new lottery that he instituted during his presidency to help
raise funds for the QPMA's popular I Love 5 to 10 a Day campaign.
The lottery raised over $50,000 (Canadian) and he said the money would be
utilized "to give the five year old campaign a boost and bring it to the next
Mr. Pitsikoulis told The Produce News during that same interview that he
wanted "to continue along the same lines" that Mr. Dolbec had taken the
association. "We are very successful and everything is heading in the right
Mr. Pitsikoulis, who has been in the industry since 1987, and has served as
Canadawide's president since 2003, said he wanted to hold a second lottery
for the coming year with the "same objectives. If it works, why not, it's for a
good cause and that helps everyone involved."
He said that the association would also undertake "a strategic planning
exercise" to help plan for the QPMA's next four to five years.
"We're going to look within and re-evaluate our structure in order to write
new chapters," he said.
At his address at the closing banquet, Mr. Pitsikoulis, compared the
association to "a big community," and said that "the industry needs to work
together more closely as the challenges we face are daunting."
He said that the trade "needs to look at where we came from to know where
we are going," and to that end, the theme for his year as president -- and for
the QPMA's next convention, which will be held Aug. 18-20 at the Fairmont
Tremblant -- would be "The Origins of Fruits and Vegetables."