When Calgary hosted the Canadian Produce Marketing Association convention four years ago, the convention centre was packed with 223 booths.
This year, more than 400 booths are expected to await visitors at CPMA’s trade show April 11-13 at the BMO Centre in Stampede Park, Calgary’s largest event space.
“We’ve got over 200 exhibitors,” said outgoing CPMA chairman Tom Byttynen, president of Thomas Fresh, Calgary.
Alberta, Quebec and the Maritimes will showcase their products at the show and Mexico is sponsoring a pavilion.
“All the major Canadian retailers are coming to this event as well as a number from the U.S., and we even have a contingent coming from China,” Byttynen said.
“Everyone’s coming to Calgary looking for opportunities.”
Byttynen said the room allotment at the Hyatt Regency Calgary sold out in two hours. Of the six additional convention hotels, three were full by the end of February.
Along with Calgary’s famous Western hospitality, Byttynen said this year’s convention will showcase some of the city’s history.
Heritage Park, site of the chairman’s opening reception, is “one of my favorite places in the world,” he said.
Attendees will meet and mingle among vintage cars and oil and gas-related artifacts in the park’s Gasoline Alley Museum.
Calgary has also been declared the cultural center of Canada for 2012, Byttynen said.
“It’s not just Cowtown,” he said. “I can go to a different theatre event every week.”
Friday night’s chairman’s ball will channel the Rat Pack days in Vegas in the early 1960s, and feature the likes of Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr.
The convention’s four business sessions will focus on issues facing the industry.
Thursday’s first session looks at the various social media tools available and how best to integrate them into marketing plans to build consumer trust, awareness and product sales.
The second session, “Getting your products from A to B in Canada,” will offer valuable advice for importers.
Attendees will learn what they can to do move products as quickly as possible across the border and how to meet customer expectations. New transportation best practices will also be discussed.
How to maintain consumer confidence in fresh produce is the theme of a wide-ranging discussion on food safety.
This session will focus on topics such as the effects of social media, research on consumer behavior, the perception of safety of locally grown produce versus imports and how to handle a crisis.
For Friday’s final session, a panel of Canadian retailers, foodservice operators and vendors will discuss consumer trends by region and what’s on the horizon as immigration increases and Canada’s population ages.
Thursday’s Delegates and Companions Breakfast will feature keynote speaker David Chilton, author of “The Wealthy Barber” and “The Wealthy Barber Returns” books.
The same day, the Delegates’ Luncheon will feature Anthony Williams, co-author of international bestseller “Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything,” who will discuss proposals for transforming organizations and institutions to meet the challenges posed by new media, a new generation and a new economy.