(UPDATED COVERAGE, April 25) TORONTO — When it comes to showcasing product at the Canadian Produce Marketing Association’s annual convention and expo, it’s clearly not U.S. customers and consumers exhibitors are trying to reach — and it’s not just the French language on packaging.
“I think the palate is a little more adventurous here with the Canadian consumers,” said Ernst Van Eeghen, director of marketing and product development for Salinas, Calif.-based Church Bros. LLC.
click image to zoomChris KogerMilla (left) and Annika Mastronardi hand out tomato samples at the Mastronardi Produce booth April 19 at the Canadian Produce Marketing Association's annual conference in Toronto. The girls are the daughters of company president Paul Mastronardi.The company showcased foodservice packs of Italian Greens under the Tuscan label, featuring black and scarlet baby kale and wild arugula, a product available for the first time in Canada.
“It’s not very easy for companies like us to talk to independent restaurants and smaller chains (in Canada),” Van Eeghen said. “So (the CPMA expo) is an opportunity where we can talk not just our customers and distributors, but also their customers and sales people. We need to help them sell.”
Jeff Schwartz, of Maurice A. Auerbach Inc., Secaucus, N.J., said elephant garlic, sold as singles in mesh bags, sparked interest.
“You never know what’s known in one market as opposed to another,” Schwartz said. “People are picking (the garlic) up and asking questions.”
Ande Manos, in sales and marketing at Babe Farms, said one-pound baby fennel bags and baby purple artichokes were getting interest.
“It’s all about the demographics,” she said on April 19, the second day of the expo.
Manos and several other exhibitors said traffic was slower on the show floor that day, but it didn’t take away from their overall goal: meeting key customers.
CPMA reported attendance of 3,933, a 43% increase compared to the 2009 convention, the last time it was in Toronto.
CPMA brought 250 area produce managers for a one-day program, which included walking the trade show floor. Produce managers are the front-line personnel, interacting most with consumers, said Ron Lemaire CPMA president, so it’s important to help educate that group.
Toward that effort, CPMA is launching a Certified Produce Professional program.
Lemaire said the association focused on children with its outreach programs, creating a kindergarten through grade 6 curriculum for educators to help boost consumption among school children
“Since October, we’ve had more than 3,000 unique downloads for that program,” Lemaire said.