Walt Breeden is probably one of the few Canadians who’ve eaten a square watermelon. In fact, the Canadian Produce Marketing Association’s incoming chairman was responsible for bringing the unique fruit, grown in a glass cube, to Canada back in 2002.
Breeden, director of sales and citrus category manager for Canada for Vancouver-based The Oppenheimer Group, is always on the lookout for interesting new produce.
Along with mandarins — Oppy has been importing Japanese mandarins to western Canada since 1890 — he imports Japan’s Tottori pears, grown in bags to keep their skin clear and blemish-free.
He also once brought in a heart-shaped lemon for Valentine’s Day.
Breeden is equally committed to his new post at CPMA and said it’s an honor to follow in the footsteps of so many passionate produce people.
His list of issues to tackle in 2013-14 is long.
At the top is strengthening education for members and consumers — especially kids.
“Our membership is looking for education and training on food safety, handling of products and quality of products, and we’ll continue our Freggie program in schools,” said Breeden, father of two boys in their 20s.
“If we can educate kids to eat fruits and vegetables, they are the consumers of the future.”
CPMA also will analyze the effectiveness of its message encouraging Canadians to make healthy food choices.
Expanding CPMA’s work with its regional partners across Canada is also high on his list because each region is so different, from Vancouver to Newfoundland.
Under his chairmanship, the association will continue the strategic renewal process it began last year, with a focus on key business lines, market development, industry specification and corporate services.
Breeden is the fourth CPMA chairman to come from The Oppenheimer Group, which he joined in 1987 after 10 years as a produce buyer for Woodward’s department stores in Vancouver.
He was promoted to sales manager in 1997 and opened Oppy’s Calgary office in 2001.
When he’s not travelling, he likes to play golf and relax, but his love of produce is clear.
“With Canada’s population being so culturally diverse, there are many interesting things and many passionate people, making every day fascinating,” he said.
“And you’re providing good things for people to eat.”