Canadian Produce Marketing Association's Fresh Week Highlights Critical Aspects of Canadian Produce Industry
THE INTERWEBS - Will I ever stop being surprised by the resiliency and innovation of this industry? I hope the answer is “never,” and trade shows only further my resolve on this front. After attending this year’s Fresh Week, hosted by the Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA), I got a taste for all of the ways in which industry members are ensuring that, no matter the circumstances, fresh produce is run by people who make sure it thrives.
“The produce supply chain is one of the sectors that have had to dramatically change how they run their businesses due to the pandemic," commented Ron Lemaire, President, CPMA. "Following the cancellation of our 2020 trade show, our Board felt it was important for us to bring our industry together this year in a way that builds on all the previous online events. The 2021 virtual trade show was designed to give our industry members a chance to learn, re-connect, and seize business opportunities that can help them adapt their business models to the current environment. While this was our first-ever virtual show, we have had very positive feedback from participants, and we are extremely pleased by how the industry has engaged and embraced Fresh Week.”
The show, which began Tuesday, April 13, started with a Keynote Kick-Off featuring Laurent Duvernay Tardif, Kansas City Chiefs football star. Imposing both on and off the screen, the football player was an apt persona for our larger-than-life industry.
Each day kicked off with Retail and Industry Tours, during which attendees were able to get a behind-the-scenes look at a variety of retailers across Canada and Europe, as well as greenhouse operations.
“CPMA Fresh Week is an important event we’re proud to be a part of. It is a great opportunity to not only showcase how we deliver exceptional levels of quality, flavor, and innovation, but also to connect with customers and other industry professionals to address important issues in the fresh fruit and vegetable sector. Taking part in CPMA Fresh Week further drives forward-thinking innovation to an industry to that contributes so much to Canada’s economy, food security, and the overall health and well-being of Canadians,” remarked Vice President of Sales, Peppe Bonfiglio, Mastronardi Produce®, in regards to the show’s importance.
Wednesday, April 14; Thursday, April 15; and Friday, April 16, all featured Fireside Chats with C-suite players amongst the buy-side, such as Paul Wood of Giant Tiger Stores Limited, Randy White of Sysco Canada, and Darrell Jones of Save-On-Foods. These Fireside Chats were followed by Industry Roundtables, during which aspects of retail and sustainability were addressed.
Quinton Woods, Sales and Plant Operations Manager for Gwillimdale Farms, who spoke on a panel regarding sustainability across the industry, noted the importance of Fresh Week for the Canadian marketplace.
“This show is the one-stop shop of customers, retailers, wholesalers, and foodservice for Canada,” he commented. “It is THE premier event. This year has been different but well attended, and definitely well done!”
Both Wednesday and Thursday featured Townhalls that touched on pressing issues within the industry: such as that of foodservice and online sales. Tom Bak, Sysco’s National Director of Produce, CMU Sales, and George Maia, Longo’s Category Manager for Grocery, were featured speakers on the respective topics. Each brought a seasoned approach to the issues at hand, but one thread that flowed throughout these Townhalls—and other presentations—was our industry’s resiliency, ability to adapt, and our desire to overcome any challenge.
“I have watched a couple of the speaking forums which were good and I’ve also had a few of the speed meetings set up by CPMA and the retail community. It was great to speak with retailers to also see what Oppy can do to help with their business,” Aaron Quon, Oppy’s Executive Director of Greenhouse and Canadian Category Development, said. “I also had the chance to meet a few growers from around the world to discuss import opportunities into Canada. Overall, a good show and I look forward to the continued dialogue with both our retail partners and potential new suppliers.”
The winners included:
- Best New Technology - Unitec Canada Fruit and Vegetables Technology, Cherry Vision 3.0
- Best Snackable Product - LOOP Mission, Probiotic Sodas
- Packaging Innovation - Mucci Farms, Naked Leaf Living Basil
- Best Organic Product - EarthFresh, Organic Golden, Red, and Russet Potatoes
- Best New Product - The Star Group, New Inspired Salads
Expo Hall Meetings on Thursday and Friday created moments for buyers and suppliers alike to forge new connections and discover new products and innovations.
Sprinkled throughout Fresh Week were multiple chances to network, such as a Mixology feature that got everyone’s drinks prepped and ready before entering into trivia or poker. Although I was not brave enough to try my hand at Thursday night’s round of karaoke, I know other industry members were raring to show off their inner Britney Spears.
There were also sessions dedicated to niche groups within the biz, such as women in produce and rising young professionals—of which we’re seeing more and more enter the produce force each year!
The trade show concluded with the presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award to John Anderson, Oppy’s Chief Executive Officer, Chairman, and Managing Partner.
As always, another great show bringing together hundreds of industry members. No matter the circumstances, we in this biz will find a way to connect. Tireless and dedicated are obvious synonyms for my fellow produce workers, and I’m happy to pronounce the event a success.