Between travels across Canada as CPMA chairman, his Montreal-based wholesale company, Courchesne Larose Ltd., has been building a new headquarters, scheduled to be completed in the fall.

Routhier said his year has passed quickly, and included many meetings to find a replacement for long-time CPMA president Danny Dempster from a field of excellent candidates.

“My job has been to ensure that the CPMA is there for a lot of years to come,” he said.

“With our experienced staff and executives, we’ve set goals for the next few years, outlining where we’d like the association to be.”

One goal is to continue working with the Canadian government and with the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association to make the produce business easier for everyone, he said, including U.S. companies that want to export to Canada.

Another goal, he said, is to find more sources of funding, perhaps from Health Canada and associations such as the Canadian Cancer Society, to promote the consumption of more fruit and vegetables.

While CPMA’s Mix it Up! program has been popular, he said it hasn’t found the level of sponsorship the association had hoped for.

“We’ve kept the program small for the first year while we try to find other sources of funding,” he said, “but we really want to focus on making it bigger in the future.”

One thing that is growing, he said, is the Freggie Friday concept. Students bring in fruits and vegetables to share with their class and CPMA’s cartoon mascot Freggie.

“It’s been a lot easier to get financing for the Freggie program, and we want to implement it in more cities across the country,” Routhier said.

“Even wholesalers in Quebec and Toronto are working to organize it in their school district.”

As for increasing CPMA membership, another goal, Routhier said it can only attract new members if it can prove it’s important and good for their business.

“The association is not only a convention with a party, there’s much more to it,” he said. “Because CPMA represents the industry, government is more willing to listen to us and ask our opinion before they make a move.”

“We’ve said loud and clear this year that we want our message to be heard by everyone.”

April’s CPMA convention is going to be a great show, Routhier said, with many new exhibitors and excellent speakers.

“The whole Canadian industry will be there and all the chain stores will be represented,” he said.

“I think it will be great for any American shipper who wants to sell to Canada.”

Along with his travels and meetings, being involved in planning a convention has been a great learning experience, he said.

“You get to see the incredible amount of work involved,” he said

“The organizing committee, starting with chair Bernadette Hamel of Metro Richelieu, have all been a great help to me. I’m very proud to have friends like that.”