The Canadian Produce Marketing Association held its annual convention and trade show at the Direct Energy Centre in Toronto April 17-19, and this year’s event was one for the record books, according to incoming CPMA Chair of the Board Walt Breeden.
The convention had 522 booths, the most in CPMA history. CPMA President Ron Lemaire said the success of this convention built on the momentum created two years ago in Montreal.
In addition to the Fresh Health Award received at Thursday's luncheon on behalf of Bayshore Vegetable Shippers Ltd. by Hugh Bowman, chief executive officer and owner, and Learning Tree Canada's Joni Bowman, a top-selling curriculum writer and Mr. Bowman's wife, Friday morning's breakfast honored three other industry members: Adrian Huisman won the CPMA Lifetime Achievement Award, Jane Proctor won the Canadian Produce Person of the Year Award and Stephanie Lariviere won the Mary Fitzgerald Award.
The Best New Product Award went to Paramount Farms' three new POM juices. This year's winner of the Best Booth Award was EarthFresh. Coming in second was Mastronardi Produce, and rounding out the top three was Procyk Farms, which won third place.
Mr. Lemaire pointed out the produce industry has a “living breathing product,” and said it’s important to showcase that vibrancy at a convention. The CPMA had a strategy in place this year to guide buyers to put together creative and interactive booths. In addition to viewing beautiful displays, booth visitors were often invited to taste products, from fresh coconut juice to apple chips. The other senses were not neglected, as The Little Potato Company Ltd. brought a jazz band to promote its new Potato Jazz line, while the Mexican Pavilion offered music, and flavors from Mexico at its reception.
Mr. Lemaire said the CPMA also integrated its education strategy into the convention. The Retail Produce Manager Event and the Business programs were new this year. The CPMA identified hot topics in the industry and offered four business sessions, focusing on social media strategies, important regulatory changes impacting the produce industry, new ways of managing the produce supply chain, and a focused look at trends driving the Canadian produce market.
The CPMA actively looked for partnerships to expand the reach of the tradeshow and one example was the Career Pathways event, a PMA Foundation for Industry Talent program making its Canadian debut in Toronto.
Education was also provided to the youngest generation, as excited children from the Freggie’s Children’s program tasted their way through the trade show and met 14-year-old inspiration Katie Stagliano, founder of Katie’s Krops.
From inspirational keynote speaker Jamie Clarke at the Delegate Luncheon to the Birds of Paradise dance duo at the banquet, delegates were offered food for the mind, body and senses. “We are lucky to have a great industry,” Mr. Lemaire said, noting the CPMA convention needs and appreciates the support of the exhibitors and delegates. Outgoing CPMA Chairman of the Board Jim DiMenna also thanked Convention Chair Bernadette Hamel and her dedicated staff for their hard work.