GATINEAU, Quebec — A last few whacks and the “0” of the “70” piñata burst open, and the crowd burst into cheers.

The Quebec Produce Marketing Association celebrated 70 years of promoting fresh fruit and vegetables at its annual convention Aug. 17-19 at the Hilton Lac-Leamy Hotel and Casino.

Attendees celebrated with a Mexican Day of the Dead-themed night Aug. 18, with the party going late to ’70s hit music by the Boogie Wonder Band.

Along with bubble soccer, go-kart racing, piñata smashing and the late-night dancing, convention attendees heard about QPMA’s recent projects, welcomed incoming president of the board Francis Berube and saw industry consultant Marie Gosselin honored as the 2017 Pillar of the Quebec Industry.


The value of produce

Outgoing board president Roland Lafont, president of Vergers St.-Paul Inc., Saint-Paul-d’Abbotsford, Quebec, made a priority of commissioning two economic studies of the Quebec produce industry, the results of which were presented at the convention.

One study compared the prices of fresh fruit and vegetables to that of other consumer products, in a bid to challenge the perception of fresh produce being too expensive. Lafond said that view is often promoted in the media, such as when shortages caused cauliflower prices to spike to $8 a head a couple winters ago.


The study found the average price of a 100-gram serving of 16 fruits and vegetables to be 74 cents (CAD), he said.

Lafont wants to publicize the results to emphasize the affordability of fresh produce as the association continues its “I love 5 to 10 a day” campaign.

The other study looked at the economic impact of Quebec’s produce industry on the province in terms of total revenue, employment and tax revenue, and also projected how much varying levels of increased produce consumption would cut healthcare costs.

While Quebec leads Canada with 46% of consumers saying they eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, the association wants to keep pushing that number up and hopes to partner with the government to do so.

The study found the produce industry contributes $3.1 billion to the economy, provides 41,650 jobs (not including migrant workers) and brings in $536 million in tax revenue.

The association hopes to use the second report as a tool in engaging with government officials and enlisting support of QPMA’s goals.


Focus on innovation


Incoming board president Francis Berube, produce merchandising manager with Sobeys Quebec, will emphasize innovation during the next year, with the theme of next year’s convention, Aug. 16-18 at the Fairmont le Manoir Richelieu in La Malbaie, Quebec, already set as “Winning through innovation.”

Berube said he wants to work to give the next generations a future in the produce industry.

He will use his experience to develop QPMA’s strategic plan for the next three to five years, and plans to focus on partnering with the government and continuing the “I love” campaign.


2017 Pillar

Marie Gosselin, president of marketing firm Mur Conseil, was honored as the 2017 Pillar of the Quebec Industry at the convention’s closing banquet Aug. 19.

Credited with being the first to build a brand for greenhouse tomatoes under the Savoura label, Gosselin also has a long history of service with the association, having served as president of the board in 2013-14 and interim CEO in 2015 when Sophie Perreault was on maternity leave.


Gosselin said she is proud to be the second woman to be honored with the Pillar award, with Bernadette Hamel of Metro Richelieu Inc. winning the award in 2014.

With so much experience in marketing and brand management, Gosselin puts her talents to use for clients through brand consulting and as a retail liaison, ensuring products are merchandised effectively.

This year, she and several suppliers launched a brand for ugly produce, “Hors la Loi” or Rebels in English. The No. 2 produce items are packed in colorful bags with fun graphics, and the lower price point should make fresh produce even more accessible to consumers, she said.