Ron Lemaire presenting at CPMA ( Ashley Nickle )

MONTREAL — With more than 300 exhibitors and a strong international presence, the 2019 Canadian Produce Marketing Association Convention delivered for attendees.

“CPMA as a show is a very important show for us because obviously, Canada is a major market for us,” said Dennis Christou, vice president of marketing for Coral Gables, Fla.-based Del Monte Fresh Produce. “We have significant distribution and presence across multiple products.

“But on top of that, it is a show where, unlike many other shows, the interaction between the trade and supplier is conducted in a much more convivial environment, there’s very strong relationships, and people take the time to interact, talk and get to discuss business.”

Ron Lemaire, president of CPMA, said April 3 that show attendance numbers were positive.

“I have been speaking with a lot of the exhibitors and they’re very happy with the quality of traffic that’s walking around,” he said. “As a show provider, CPMA is extremely pleased every time we hear that from an exhibitor.”

With ratification of the U.S.-Mexican-Canada-Agreement facing challenges, Lemaire said trade issues cast a “gray cloud” over the produce industry in early April. Two CPMA education sessions on April 4 focused on the future of North American trade.

“The (USMCA) agreement has good legs; someone’s just got to put shoes on it,” he said. 

Lemaire said the U.S. could be the biggest loser from the lack of trade progress. 
The U.S. risks further losing its export position to Mexico, Canada and Australia if it doesn’t ratify USMCA and fails to strike any new trade agreements with Asian countries, he said.

Lemaire announced April 3 that CPMA has been developing several new tools to help members improve business performance. One of the tools provides companies an evaluation of their processes and highlights areas to reduce food waste and drive cost out of the supply chain. 

CPMA will also employ artificial intelligence to improve understanding of consumer perceptions and attitudes about produce. In addition, the association created a Produce Innovation Hub where companies can search for tech startups in a number of areas, from robotics to software to precision agriculture.

Another tool CPMA recently rolled out gives companies corporate culture assessments, based on a survey of employees — and compares results to those of successful companies with high-scoring corporate cultures. That assessment is the basis of CPMA’s new Corporate Culture Awards.

Attendance figures for the April 2-4 show were not available April 3 but CPMA said the 94th edition of its show featured more than 300 exhibitors, including 132 companies.

EarthFresh Foods, Burlington, Ontario, received the CPMA Health Fresh Award on April 3. 

“We align ourselves with the CPMA mandate to try to get Canadians to eat half their plate with fruits and vegetables,” said Stephanie Cutaia, marketing director of EarthFresh. “We believe in it.”

The company promotes the theme with packaging and social media efforts, she said. Cutaia said the company also supports fundraising efforts for CPMA’s Freggie Children’s Program.

Next year, CPMA will be May 12-14 in Toronto, Lemaire said.

“Toronto will bring that cultural diversity, the access to a wide range of unique independent grocers —  small, big, medium — plus the big broadliners and strong national retailers,” he said.

The Packer’s Retail Editor Ashley Nickle contributed to this article.

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