Les Mallard, vice president of sales for Canada with Fyffes, is the incoming 2018-19 chairman of the Canadian Produce Marketing Association. ( Courtesy Canadian Produce Marketing Association )

Though he retired last spring from Chiquita Brands North America, CPMA’s incoming chairman is busier than ever.

During his 30 years with Chiquita, Les Mallard held various roles, from market service representative to zone manager Canada, supplying bananas, pineapples and salads to major Canadian retailers.

Mallard has since launched his own consulting firm, Mallard Produce Solutions, helping U.S. and Central American companies interested in bringing products to Canada. He recently took on the role of vice president sales for Canada with Fyffes.

“After seeing the way they do business, I was more than happy to join their team,” said Mallard, who was born in Ontario and lived in Montreal and PEI before moving to Nova Scotia with Chiquita, where he still resides.

The new Canadian Produce Marketing Association chairman said he’s loved every job he’s held since graduating in economics from the University of Prince Edward Island.

“Being in the produce industry gives me a sense of pride,” he said, “because you’re doing good by helping people be healthy.”

Mallard has been active in the industry since 1994, when he began volunteering with the Atlantic Fresh Produce Association. He joined the CPMA board of directors in 2005 and has worked on various committees including his most recent role as chairman of the membership committee.

He’s quick to praise the people he’s met, and said he likes nothing better than connecting people.

“You have to have a lot of smart people involved to get a tomato from Leamington (Ontario) to Halifax (Nova Scotia) or bananas from Costa Rica to Newfoundland,” he said.

“All sorts of things can happen. Throughout my career I’ve surrounded myself with really good people and fostered relationships with people who are good at what they do.

“I tell my two kids that if you surround yourself with good people, you will have a great life.”

Mallard is now preparing to take over as CPMA chairman, which former chairman Sam Silvestro assures him will be the best year of his life in produce.

Over the next year, he and the association’s staff will be looking within and outside the produce industry for innovations that can potentially benefit members.

“There are so many things going on that will affect produce in the next five to 10 years,” he said, “whether it’s innovations in the field, in how we get produce to market or in creating efficiencies that make produce better and last longer.”

He said CPMA is already reaching out to a think tank at Toronto’s Ryerson University and other innovation hubs that bring academics together with the private and public sector.

In the meantime, he urges all members to join him in Vancouver.

“CPMA conventions are a great way to see everybody in the industry,” he said.

“There aren’t many places you can go where you can see every decision-maker, whether it’s on the supply side, the retail side or the wholesale side. To see them all in one spot, that to me is such a bonus.”