UPDATED: Full plate for buyers, sellers as CPMA comes West(UPDATED COVERAGE April 16) VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The Canadian Produce Marketing Association backed its Live Healthy, Eat Fresh theme for this year’s convention and trade show with a new push to increase produce consumption and sales.

For consumers, CPMA sought to begin simplifying its health message by introducing the Half Your Plate program April 3. The trade group wants continuity, not competition, with the half-a-plate initiatives of Health Canada and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Half Your Plate will rely more heavily on health organizations outside the industry — for example, the Canadian Public Health Association and the Canadian Cancer Society — than past consumption initiatives did.

For this year’s event April 2-4 at the Vancouver Convention Center, CPMA offered more opportunities for attendees to hear from buyers.

“We’ve added a couple new attributes with our retail panel, where we had five of the top retailers in Canada representing about 80% of the buying power speaking to the delegates,” CPMA president Ron Lemaire said. “(They were) giving a clear message that, you know what, the world’s changing. Working in partnership is key in driving increased sales through the supply chain and to the consumer.”

Total attendance was 3,550. Last year's Toronto show drew 3,933.

In the new products showcase competition, Westmoreland Sales, Leamington, Ontario, won for its TopLine Creations. Packages in the line include olive oil and a spice packet with greenhouse-grown grape, cocktail or cherry tomatoes; mini seedless cucumbers; or mini sweet peppers.

Peak of the Market won the best booth competition for its pair of bookend, travel-themed locations on aisle 300. The Mexico pavilion finished second. Vancouver-based Fresh Direct Produce Ltd. was third.

Bernadette Hamel, vice president of national procurement for produce for Montreal-based Metro Inc., became the second woman in 89 years to lead the CPMA, greeting delegates at the closing dinner. The new chairman succeeds Walt Breeden, director of Canada sales for the Oppenheimer Group. The Packer honored Breeden as its Canadian Produce Man of the Year.

The trade show drew largely favorable comments from exhibitors.

“I don’t come here with high expectations, especially out in western Canada because of the fact that we’re not that heavy here as opposed to eastern Canada,” said Jim Grabowski, merchandising manager at Watsonville, Calif.-based Well-Pict Berries. “But a lot of the Eastern people were here. Usually they don’t do the crossover ... We saw quite a few of our people from eastern Canada.”

“Last year the Canadian show in Toronto was really successful,” said Kurt Cappelluti, sales manager for Stellar Distributing Inc., Madera, Calif. “It’s early to tell, but this is a much smaller show. Sometimes you wonder if keeping it in one area would make it attractive to the same amount of volume each year.”

“There’s been good foot traffic,” said Glen Arrowsmith, global marketing manager for organic at Zespri Kiwifruit. “It’s a fantastic way to catch up with the retailers, buyers and distributors who matter across North America. Particularly when we have new product like the SunGold (kiwifruit) and the organic green coming into the market.”

The 2015 CPMA show is set for April 12-14 in Montreal at the Palais des congres de Montreal.