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First-time exhibitors say tres bon at annual exhibition

by John Groh | April 19, 2011

MONTREAL – The Canadian Produce Marketing Association held its 86th annual convention and exhibition April 13-15, here, and while the majority of companies on the trade show floor were veteran exhibitors, a handful experienced their first CPMA and got a taste of why so many come back year after year.

At the Idaho Potato Commission booth, Seth Pemsler, vice president of retail and international, said, “This show provided us with the opportunity to further expand the awareness of major repackers and distributors of the ‘Idaho’ brand. We’ve had some excellent meetings, and one major repacker even showed us the new

Ken Tubman and Seth Pemsler of the Idaho Potato Commission displayed bags of 'Idaho' potatoes that they bought at Montreal-area retailers during the Canadian Produce Marketing Association's annual trade show. The commission, along with most other first-time exhibitors, enjoyed the intimacy of the show and plans to exhibit again next year in Calgary. (Photo by John Groh)
Idaho potato bag he now has in production based on a meeting we had with him last year.”


Added Ken Tubman, director of national accounts-retail at the commission, “It was very encouraging to come to Canada and see the ‘Idaho’ seal so prominently displayed at retailers in the [Montreal] area. Actually, we are exhibiting bags of product here at our booth that we picked up from local retailers.”

“We had a great experience, and we expect to exhibit at CPMA for years to come,” added Mr. Pemsler.

Ernest Van Eeghen, director of marketing and product development at Church Bros., based in Salinas, CA, said that the show offered a good combination of retailers and wholesalers.

“It was smaller than I expected, but that allowed us to spend some quality time and make good contacts,” he said. “We were promoting our wasabi arugula, ‘Teen Green’ sandwich leaves, baby heads and cascade mix to the Canadian trade, and they were very well received. We definitely plan to exhibit next year at the show in Calgary.”

Country Sweet Produce, a Bakersfield, CA-based shipper that specializes in onions and sweet potatoes, used the CPMA’s 86th annual exposition to introduce its new ‘Bako Sweet’ brand and found its first CPMA experience to be a very positive one.

“It’s been awesome,” said Patrinka Crammond of Country Sweet. “Up until now, we have sold through brokers, but now we are looking to sell direct to retailers, and we have made some great contacts. We’ll definitely be exhibiting next year in Calgary.”

“The experience has been very positive for us,” said Bethany Malcolm of Farm Fresh, a Faison, NC, marketer of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, including sweet potatoes, peppers, squash, green onions, cucumbers, apples, tomatoes, broccoli and blueberries. “We’ve made some great new contacts and met with some of our existing customers. We definitely plan to exhibit next year in Calgary.”

For Connecticut Currant LLC, based in Preston, CT, the location of the show in Montreal was an advantage and enabled Allen Lydick, regional sales manager, to make some new contacts.

“We haven’t done much business in Canada before,” he said. “The nature of our product is European-based, and so we thought Montreal would be a good place to try to break into Canada. I’m not sure we’ll exhibit [in Calgary] next year, but we’ll probably do it again next time it is in the east.”

KMT Water Jet Systems Inc., a Baxter Springs, KS-based manufacturer of water jet systems used for slicing food and non-food products, saw strong interest in its machinery, said Bob Pedrazas, marketing manager.

“Every time we ran a demo, we got a crowd around us,” he said. “It’s new technology, so it was important for us to be here and show what it can do. We want to demonstrate the benefits of water jet technology. We’re definitely planning to exhibit next year in Calgary.”

Maureen Royal of Bridges Organic Produce, a Portland, OR-based marketing and sales agency that exclusively handles certified organic produce, said that the CPMA expo was a great networking event. “And I feel like we stood out at the show because we were one of the only companies that handles organic product exclusively.”

At the KES Science & Technology booth, Kevin Youngberg and Jimmy Lee were promoting the company’s Airocide photocatalytic air purifying systems which were first developed by NASA and subsequently commercialized by KES, which is based in Kennesaw, GA.

“We were surprised that there were not more companies here with food safety products,” said Mr. Lee. “It was a great show for us because we felt like we had our own little monopoly.”