Passion for Produce draws record number of participants

Since its introduction in 2010, the Canadian Produce Marketing Association’s Passion for Produce has drawn scores of young members of the produce industry to a unique mentoring program, and the 2015 program to be held at the 90th annual convention and trade show in Montreal boasts a new milestone in PFP attendance.

According to CPMA President Ron Lemaire, 19 “rising stars” in the industry will take part in this year’s mentoring program.

PFP was created as an “added value” to the association’s membership, giving young industry members an opportunity to fast-track their career development during the convention mentoring segment.

Lemaire said the 2015 “class” has representatives from leading companies in the produce industry, and he noted the fast-paced convention setting will provide the participants with both networking and targeted experiential learning.

Over the course of the convention and trade show, the 19 participants will partner with their mentors for “off-site tours, interactive sessions, networking events and more to learn all they can about the fresh produce industry in Canada.”

The first-hand experience, along with one-on-one discussions and important networking not only provides a better understanding of the industry itself but also helps develop relationships that will remain with the participants throughout their careers.

This year’s field of PFP participants consists of Gregory Bass, Metro Richelieu Inc.; Lynda Dick, Red Sun Farms;  Peter Duckett, Loblaw; Sarah Friesen, Vineland Growers Co-operative Ltd.; Jack C. Hall, The Giumarra Cos.; Allen Hoang, Westmoreland Sales; Pierre Landry, QPMA Internship/Sobeys; Lex (Barry) Lexchin, Richard E. Ryan & Associates Ltd.; Fiona McLean, Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers; Justin Meilleur, Del Monte Fresh Produce Canada Inc.; Dorothy Redick, First Fruits Marketing of Washington LLC; Michael Rojas of AMC Direct Inc.; Susan Sipos, Nova Agri Inc.; Bryson Slade, Martin’s Produce Sales; Michael Sousa, Mann Packing Co. Inc.; Jean-Luc Talbot, Metro Richelieu Inc.; Rhaymond Tuazon, Fresh Direct Produce Ltd.; Ryan Thomas, Markon Cooperative; and Joel Veri, Exeter Produce.

CPMA to celebrate 90th convention in Montreal

As it achieves the venerable mark of 90 annual produce conventions, the Canadian Produce Marketing Association stays true to its course with the theme “Educate, Create, Innovate” for the April 15-17 event at the famed Palais des congres de Montreal in historic Old Montreal.Bernadette-Hamel 4 mediasOutgoing CPMA Board Chair Bernadette Hamel.

Outgoing CPMA Board Chair Bernadette Hamel, who holds the position of vice president of national procurement-produce for Metro Richelieu, said in her published remarks, “The theme for our 90th convention is ‘Educate, Create, Innovate.’ In this day and age we are regularly faced with challenges in the various aspects of our business. To overcome these challenges we rely on education, creativity and innovation to consistently find new and effective ways to move our products from field to fork.”

She added, “At the convention you will find our new and exciting ‘Learning Lounge,’ which will offer opportunities to learn more about innovation and creativity in the produce industry.”

And Hamel noted, “Our Convention and Trade Show is the largest of its kind in Canada and the must attend event of the year.”

Hamel’s career is one of distinction. Her involvement with CPMA includes being on the executive committee, and she is the second woman in the association’s history to hold the position of chair. She joined the Metro team in 1983 as a produce buyer and has held positions in several departments, including purchasing and merchandising. Hamel has been in her current position as vice president of national procurement of produce since 2008.

Hamel served as president of the Quebec Produce Marketing Association in 2008 and governor in 2009, and in 2014 QPMA named her Pillar, a first for a woman in 66 years.

At the conclusion of the 2015 event, incoming Chair Mike Furi will take the gavel from Hamel. Furi, manager of procurement for the Grocery People Ltd., has a long history in the produce industry and CPMA. His focus for 2015-16 will be “on expanding the CPMA’s advocacy efforts both federally and provincially on key files such as financial protection for produce sellers, health policy, food safety, labeling, and labor.”

Furi resides in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and the 2016 convention will be staged in Calgary.

Each convention strives to build on the year before, and the Montreal event follows last year’s in Vancouver, where nearly 450 exhibitor booths occupied the trade show floor and more than 3,500 delegates were in attendance.

Hamel and the 2015 Convention & Organizing Committee, which has been led by Convention Chair Jim Di Menna of J-D Marketing Inc., have put together a full slate of informative business sessions to run during the morning hours, followed by the trade show in the afternoons. In addition, a number of special receptions and speaker sessions are scheduled.

The event opens with the CPMA Members Annual General Meeting, followed by the Chair’s Welcome Reception on Wednesday, April 15. On Thursday, April 16, the day kicks off with a delegate/companion breakfast that features keynote speaker Ron Tite, whose presentation is appropriately titled “Telling Your Story” and subtitled “Corporate Storytelling.”

Tite, an actor, comedian, speaker, host and ad writer who was named to the Top 10 Creative Canadians by Marketing Magazine, will explain to attendees the importance of connecting with others through personal communication, whether  it’s to “capture best practices, close a sale, or grow the business...”

With communication skills that include writing for television series, authoring a children’s book, performing in and producing “The Canadian Baby Bonus” play and creating ad campaigns for clients such as Air France, Evian, Kraft, Intel, Microsoft and Volvo, Tite engages his audience through example. Currently the motivational speaker is president of  The Tite Group — a content marketing agency based in Toronto, and he is also chief content curator for Dx3 Canada.

Thursday’s three business sessions run concurrently and will include “Achieving More Together” ­— a look at the “power of cooperation, communication and collaboration” in an interactive workshop led by with Paul Houle, president and founder of Boom! The Power of Rhythm;  “The Profitability of Sustainability”­— a “focus on sustainability within their ‘people resources’ or attention to organizational efficiencies and profitability” led by moderator Steve Roosdahl, director of supply chain management for The Oppenheimer Group and featuring presenters Tim York, president of Markon Cooperative, Scott Tudor, director of sustainability for Sobeys and Keith Kuhl, president/CEO of Southern Manitoba Potato Co. Ltd; and “Work-Life Balance: More than just turning off your smartphone” — an interactive worship looking at factors such as the gender divide as well as the role of the employer and the impact of technology.

Business sessions are followed by the delegate luncheon, which will include a keynote presentation entitled “Implementing Fresh Everyday.” Moderated by Reggie Griffin, former senior vice president of the Kroger Co., and featuring panelists Teri Miller, category manager of Food Lion, Pierre Dandoy, vice president of operations for QC Market Loblaw; Pat Pessotto, vice president of merchandising for Longo’s, Oleen Smethurst, AGMM of produce for Costco Wholesale Canada and Rich Dachman, vice president of produce for Sysco, the presentation will look at “how the entire supply chain must work together to grow the market.”

The tradeshow commences with the traditional opening ceremony and entertainment at 1 p.m. and closes at 5:30 p.m. The After Party runs from 9:30 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Friday’s activities start with the retail produce manager’s session from 9-11:15 a.m., followed by the awards brunch, which includes the presentation of the Mary FitzGerald Award and the CPMA Lifetime Achievement Award.

The tradeshow floor will open at 11:30 a.m. and will close at 4:30 p.m. The “Learning Lounge” will run from 11:30 a.m. through 3 p.m.

This year’s annual banquet reception will be held from 6:30-7:30 p.m., followed by the banquet from 7:30-11 p.m. The banquet theme for 2015 is “An Evening in Paris,” with décor, entertainment, menu and wine all reflecting La Ville Lumiere.

Retailers shifting apple displays to accommodate new varieties

Produce executives at supermarkets are responding to the rapid growth of branded apples by rethinking shelf and distribution strategies. Scan data reports for U.S. supermarkets indicate that while supermarkets are generally maintaining displays of mainline apple varieties, many of the legacy and niche varieties are losing space to the emerging apple brands.

According to Steve Lutz, vice president of marketing for Columbia Marketing International, based in Wenatchee, WA, a review of the U.S.Farmstand-bin-in-produce-sectionTop mainline varieties, like Gala, Honeycrisp, Reds, Granny Smith and Fuji, continue to have solid retail support with over 96 percent national distribution. However, data indicate a shift in retail distribution away from certain niche apples and regional varieties toward the new emerging branded apples. supermarket distribution practices at over 18,000 grocery stores shows that a shift is under way.

“There was a very large national apple crop this year, including both traditional varieties and large increases in the new branded apples,” Lutz said in a press release. “With a full crop, we can clearly see trends of retailers shifting the criteria for determining which apples get on the shelf.

“Top mainline varieties, like Gala, Honeycrisp, Reds, Granny and Fuji, continue to have solid retail support with over 96 percent national distribution,” Lutz added in the press release. “However, we’re seeing a shift in retail distribution away from certain niche apples and regional varieties toward the new emerging branded apples.”

Based on Nielsen scan data over the last 13 weeks, the top five varieties (Gala, Honeycrisp, Reds, Fuji and Granny Smith) all maintained distribution in excess of 96 percent of retail stores. During the same period, several well-known apples like Braeburn, Empire, Pink Lady, Romes and Cameo all saw significant erosion in retail supermarket distribution.

“The shift for successful retailers seems to be in seizing the opportunity with the emerging branded apples while they’re hot,” Don Patella, regional marketing director for CMI, said in the press release. “For example, store expansion for Ambrosia and KIKU brand apples were among the largest in the apple category. Over the last 13 weeks compared to the previous year, Ambrosia distribution jumped to 77 percent from 61 percent of retail stores while KIKU increased to 42 percent from 35 percent.”

Patella added that because branded apples carry higher retail prices, many retailers are increasing their dollar performance simply by changing the apple mix offered to consumers.

“KIKU carries an average retail price of about $1.95 per pound,” Patella added. “In general, that is a retail price premium of at least 10-15 percent over most of the legacy varieties KIKU has replaced. That shift increases transaction size and overall category performance for retailers.”

Local production means local donations for Windset Farms

Harvesting at Windset Farms’ British Columbia greenhouse has begun, and with this local production the company announced it will partner with Food Banks BC to provide weekly donations for its entire season. FBBC Logo PMS

This commitment will provide more than 60,000 pounds in fresh, greenhouse-grown cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes.

In the province of British Columbia, 97,400 people are assisted every month, 30,000 of which are children. Food Banks BC also provides an additional 200,000 meals through shelters, soup kitchens and school lunches. With this enormous task, it’s no wonder that the food banks must rely on community members for donations and assistance.

“Non-perishable food items are the staples of our food banks; however, it is wonderful when our food banks also have the opportunity to give out fresh, local produce,” Laura Lansink, executive director at Food Banks BC, said in a press release. “When I visited a food bank that had received a large donation of tomatoes and cucumbers from Windset Farms, you could see how excited the clients were that received these items in their hamper that day.”

According to a press release, Windset hopes that its commitment can encourage other food producers and community members to all work together for a hunger-free future. The households receiving assistance rely on the generous work of the food banks and their volunteers, and even one donation will help put nutritious, healthy fruits and vegetables on more plates.

California announces mandatory water restrictions because of ongoing drought

With a dry, brown mountain location as a backdrop on Wednesday, April 1, California Governor Jerry Brown announced mandatory water restrictions on cities and towns across the state designed to reduce water usage by 25 percent.

Though agricultural water users are required to report more data concerning their water use for the development of water management plans, farmers and growers will not be held to the same 25 percent reduction that will be imposed on urban users. Citing the toll the drought has already taken on farmers —MWNaerialcloseupReservoirs throughout California will receive very little additional water this spring as snowpack is at an all-time low level. including a zero federal water allocation for the second year in a row and the fallowing of a reported 500,000 acres last year — they were spared from participating in this mandatory program. In his announcement, Gov. Brown acknowledged that agriculture has “borne much of the brunt of the drought to date, with hundreds of thousands of fallowed acres, significantly reduced water allocations and thousands of farmworkers laid off.”

Some critics questioned the governor’s exclusion of agriculture, but other praised his plan, including Tom Nassif, Western Growers president and chief executive officer. “Through these actions, Governor Brown acknowledges the seriousness of the drought all Californians face. Although much of the population has been relatively unaffected by the natural and man-made causes perpetuating the drought, no one has been more affected than California farmers,” he said. “Western Growers is pleased that the governor, in his announcement, has acknowledged the plight of the state’s farmers and the sacrifices they have made in fallowing hundreds of thousands of acres and laying off thousands of farmworkers due to the lack of water.”

Gov. Brown’s announcement came in the form of an executive order. It requires the State Water Resources Control Board to implement mandatory water reductions in cities and towns across California to reduce water usage by 25 percent. Additionally, it directs local water agencies to adjust their rate structures to implement conservation pricing, and establishes a new program administered by the California Energy Commission to create incentives for the development of promising new technology that will make California more water efficient.

The order also focuses on extraneous use of water in urban settings such as ordering cities to stop watering the median strips that run down the middle of roads. The state will partner with local agencies to remove 50 million square feet of grass and replace it with drought-tolerant landscaping through rebate program. Homeowners will also be offered monetary incentives to replace inefficient appliances and sprinklers with more efficient products.

The order does take into account that some cities and water agencies have already implemented programs to reduce water use. Those who have done nothing will be required to step up and conserve. The state’s Water Control Board is expected to release draft regulations within a couple of weeks to implement the order. The burden of compliance will fall on local water agencies with potential fines of as much as $10,000 per day for non-compliance.

Though agriculture was spared from draconian cuts, California is in dire straits and more cuts will be needed if the drought continues. Substantial rainfall in December has helped the annual precipitation tables for most communities to appear as if this is a normal year. It also helped replenish some very low reservoirs, but the lack of snow has reached historic proportions. At least 30 percent of the water the state uses during the year comes from snowmelt. The field Gov. Brown was standing in when making his announcement would typically be covered with five feet of snow. The state’s Department of Water Resources April 1 snowpack measurement revealed that there is less snow, and the all-important water content, than any time since 1950 when that measurement was initiated. In fact, in those 65 years, twice the snowpack level was as low as 25 percent of average, including last year. This year’s snowpack currently stands at 5 percent of average.