CPMA president Ron Lemaire addresses attendees at the delegate luncheon April 3. ( Ashley Nickle )

MONTREAL – The Canadian Produce Marketing Association has announced a trio of new tools to help members reduce food waste, understand consumer perceptions and connect with tech startups.

Sustainability continues to be a focus for CPMA, and food waste – along with plastic – is one of the key topics under that umbrella. A new online tool will allow members to input information about their businesses into a program that will analyze their processes and identify opportunities to optimize them.

“The goal here is a little bit selfish and a little bit on an altruistic level,” Lemaire said April 3. “Our goal in the end is to reduce food waste and support the needs in civil society and then government to reduce what we’re putting in the landfills, to deal with access to food.

“But on the other side, we’re in the position now where we can do that and make more money through finding efficiencies, and that’s what this is all about – performance and efficiencies,” Lemaire said.

CPMA will be doing workshops around Canada – and some in the U.S. – to ensure that members understand what the tool is and how to use it. The tool will be free for members.

The plan is for the capability to be available in the next month or so, Lemaire said.

Another way CPMA is looking to bring value to the industry is by diving into artificial intelligence to get a better understanding of consumer perceptions and attitudes toward produce.

CPMA will decide on some overarching questions to examine and then deliver a market report to the industry based on the findings. Members interested in deeper dives on specific regions, demographics or commodities can submit additional queries for a fee.

“Our intent is to fill the data gap in Canada, which is a significant issue, and it’s not about creating a revenue stream, it’s about enabling members to ask questions, and ask as many questions as they can, to generate the right market data and awareness of a market to sell more produce,” Lemaire said.

Another tool making its debut is the Produce Innovation Hub, a place where industry companies – not limited to CPMA members – can search for tech startups that may have solutions relevant to them. Startups are sorted into categories including robotics, precision agriculture, software and more.

“We want to enable connectivity,” Lemaire said. “We want to be a catalyst for access to knowledge and access to new, innovative tools.”

As part of the process to develop that hub, CPMA has been reaching out to numerous startups and educating them about the role an association can play in helping them reach potential customers.

“You may not recognize, coming from outside our sector, what the power of CPMA is and how it can connect you in the way that it could in a very quick period of time,” Lemaire said. “And the hub is that portal, or catalyst ... But it will only work if people use it.”

He noted it will be up to the industry whether the hub takes off.

Another tool CPMA rolled out recently is a corporate culture assessment. It allows companies to have their employees surveyed about the culture there, and then the tool compares the results to those of some of the top companies on the Toronto Stock Exchange with high-scoring corporate cultures.

This assessment is the basis of CPMA’s new Corporate Culture Awards.

“We’ll continue to do this because it’s more than just saying, ‘Hey, Company X has a great culture,’” Lemaire said. “It’s about members using the tool to drive their performance.”


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