MONTREAL — While the Canadian Produce Marketing Association’s 86th annual convention and trade show, held here April 13-15, set records for attendance and exhibits, the show likely will be best remembered as the last hurrah for Danny Dempster, who is retiring after a career with the organization that stretches back to 1977.
Mr. Dempster, who has served as president of CPMA since 1983, was warmly recognized at virtually every turn of the convention.
“I have been blessed to have worked for such a wonderful industry and association,” Mr. Dempster said in an April 19 statement released by the CPMA. “When I think back as to why I stayed so long, it can be summed up in two words: the people. CPMA’s success can be attributed to the dedication and commitment of wonderful volunteer directors supported by a hard-working and passionate staff. I will miss the many outstanding people in this industry, and although I will not be in touch as often in the future, I know that the friendships I have made will continue through the years to come.”
CPMA announced that the 2011 event attracted 3,283 participants — almost 26 percent larger than the 2010 show — making it the association’s largest convention to date.
Exhibitors at the CPMA convention were generally pleased by the business conducted there.
Al Murray, New Jersey’s assistant secretary of agriculture,, said, “We were very glad to participate in this year’s trade show. We found the quality of the people attending to be very good, in terms of trade leads for our farmers. We enjoyed the show. It’s a more intimate show than some, and people tend to stop and talk a little longer. For us, we were able to reacquaint ourselves with that important industry.”
Sebastien Alix, president of Pommes Ma-gic in Rougemont, QC, said that attendance at the show was “really good. It was consistent,” especially on the first day of the show. “Thursday was definitely the best day for me. Now we need to do some homework” to follow up on leads. “It is good.”
Guy Milette, vice president of Courchesne Larose Ltee., located in Montreal, was the hospitality chairman of the convention and was on the show’s sponsor committee. He said that the event enjoyed a record sponsorship level of $850,000. “That is a beautiful record,” he said.
“My impression of this show is that it was way, way beyond what we were expecting,” Mr. Milette said. “We realize now how many people in North America — across Canada and the U.S. — love coming to Montreal. And we are realizing how much the city is appreciated. Coming to CPMA and Montreal was simply magical for so many people.”
Mr. Milette continued: “Concerning our booth, it is very simple. For two days, I did not see the color of the carpet [because] there were so many people on it. It was a lot of fun enjoying some time with our suppliers, and so many customers passed by. Our special guests (professional athletes who made appearances for Courchesne) were very generous with their time. It was so much better than we expected. It will be hard to make it any better at any time.”
Courchesne Larose “had a wonderful location” at the show, and the firm’s booth, which took third-place honors for the Best Booth Award, was the first in CPMA history to have a second floor, which was used as a meeting room.
Mr. Milette said, “The view we had of the CPMA floor was simply amazing, to look on top of all the exhibitors.”
Mr. Milette made a point of recognizing the “amazing and fantastic work of all the CPMA staff, who are hard workers and fully dedicated to the show. It’s hard to believe how dedicated these people are. In the industry, there is probably not a better family than the CPMA staff.”
The convention combined networking opportunities, business sessions, and dynamic keynote speakers in Chantal Peticlerc and Jeremy Gutsche. Educational elements at the convention included sessions on industry hot topics, such as the Produce Traceability Initiative; a session on marketing the healthy message of produce; and a tour of area retailers.
A native of Quebec, Ms. Peticlerc became a paraplegic at age 13 when she suffered a childhood accident. She told the story of how she became the winner of 21 Paralympic medals, 14 of those being gold medals. She won every Paralympic wheelchair event at the Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 Olympics. She won silver medals and gold medals in Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000 and won her first Paralympic medals, two bronzes, in Barcelona in 1992. She is now training to become the first Canadian to win the New York Marathon, which will take place this fall.
Mr. Gutsche, an author, motivational speaker and founder of trendhunter.com, which claims to be the world’s largest collection of cutting-edge trends, entertained attendees at the April 14 luncheon with case studies of successful and failed businesses, and urged companies to create a culture of innovation and make the most of their marketing message by “thinking big while acting small.”
Prior to Mr. Gutsche’s presentation, The Produce News Fresh Health Award was given to Gambles Ontario Produce, located in Toronto, which was recognized for its efforts to develop a Freggie Friday program at schools outside Ottawa.
The Mary FitzGerald Award went to Josée Houle of the produce buying department at Metro Richelieu Inc. in Montreal. Another Metro produce professional, Ghislain Perron, won the CPMA Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Best New Product Showcase Award went to La Vita Imports, which is located in Rosemere, QC.
First place for best booth in the show went to Peak of the Market, which is headquartered in Winnipeg. The firm, which was the 2010 recipient of The Produce News Fresh Health Award presented last year at the convention in Vancouver, featured a solid wall of vegetables at the back of its long booth and a character made of vegetables sitting on a bench in front of this wall.
The second-place booth award went to the Quebec Growers Association, based in Montreal.
After the trade show closed its doors, CPMA exhibitors donated 33,000 pounds of produce to the Moisson Montréal Food Bank (moissonmontreal.org). Moisson Montréal serves 211 organizations across the Island of Montreal, reaching 112,000 individuals.