CPMA Celebrates A Successful 2023 Show, Discussing Challenges, Change, and More
TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA - Set to the sustainable, green-focused, fresh background of Toronto, the Canadian Produce Marketing Association’s (CPMA) annual show welcomed produce professionals from all over to showcase and connect with the finest in the country’s fresh sector.
With attendees coming into town as early as Sunday to prepare, CPMA offered a varied schedule depending on arrival, ranging from a sold-out retail tour to early opportunities to view the debut of the CPMA’s first-ever Innovation Zone before the official Chair’s Reception at the intriguing Steam Whistle Brewery’s Locomotive Hall.
"The show’s done a great job bringing the community back together and driving innovations. Sustainability has been a massive focus this year and we are seeing it throughout the show floor and in discussions, people are looking at new ways of how the business needs to operate in the future. They are looking at it not in a silo but across the entire supply chain, which is key," Ron Lemaire, President of the Canadian Produce Marketing Association, shared.
Wednesday got the official schedule rolling with a delegate and companion breakfast followed by a business session on relevant industry issues like packaging decisions and dealing with cybersecurity woes, as well as opportunities for networking receptions.
“This year’s CPMA has been particularly exciting for our produce team, as we brought together all of our backstage produce teammates nationally for the first time for the opportunity to gather and to attend the show. As we focus on really executing our absolute best produce strategy, it was significant to have us all together collectively at a key fresh event like CPMA,” remarked Amanda Labuckas, Director of Fresh Category Management and Merchandising, FreshCo.
The ribbon was officially snipped at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, opening up the sold-out floor of over 600 exhibitors. According to CPMA, over 300 were unique exhibiting companies, 146 international exhibitors, 157 Canadian exhibitors, with 50 first-time exhibitors, all of whom had a special floor decal to welcome them to their debut for the expo.
“Toronto is a great location, drawing everyone out to gather and create the connections that we always hope to make when we come to a trade show, and that is something CPMA has done really well,” Quinton Woods, Senior Sales and Plant Operation Manager at Gwillimdale Farms, shared.
In addition to the new Innovation Zone, 69 companies participated in the New Product Showcase.
The Young Professionals Networking Reception was simultaneously hosted next to the Women in Produce Reception, offering a wide variety of attendees a chance to mingle and get to know current and future business associates.
An after party at the InterContinental brought out the country in our produce companions with line dancing and some howdy-themed fun. There were a few can’t-resist classic songs, too!
"I love the social components of the show. While we are here for business, our real work happens during our dinners, our activities, and in those moments when everyone takes the time to sit down and actually start talking. I love that at the end of the day, even when everyone is tired from hustling on the show floor and running meetings, they continue to go out at night and enjoy each other's company. To look at great opportunities for where the future is going," Lemaire reflected.
At the Awards Brunch on Thursday, we watched Sam Silvestro, a former Senior Director at Walmart, be presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award, followed by a heart-warming Q&A session.
Silvestro has been working in the industry for 40 years with previous senior roles at Sobeys and Walmart Canada, including Special Projects Manager, Director of Produce, and Director of Merchandising. Now he serves the industry as an executive consultant for national brands and has been involved in a number of government committees on food safety and import and export of food products.
The Young Professional Award was granted to Loblaws’ Greg Palmer. The Procurement Director was thrilled to receive this honor.
“Please mentor your young people because we care, there are a lot of us, and if you do, we will continue to make you proud,” Palmer commented after accepting the Young Professional Award.
Other awards include the following:
- Fresh Health Award: Mucci Farms
- Best Snackable Product: Naturipe Farms
- Best Organic Product: Mastronardi Produce®
- Best Packaging Innovation: Cascades
- Best New Product: Nature Fresh Farms
When it came time to hit the show floor, everyone in attendance was ramped up and ready to get to networking. Ideas and new relationships abounded, while old friends and colleagues were happy to talk shop.
The learning lounges provided a key area to both rest from the whirlwind show floor and to explore some of the topics that affect our industry most.
While it was not on the agenda or in a showcase, the undercurrent of enthusiasm for an amazing comeback Monday night for the Maple Leafs set the tone for Canadian pride and cultural camaraderie among all. I can’t think of a better parallel for the produce message CPMA worked so diligently to deliver: A challenge can be the precursor to a great comeback story.
"Many turn around and say another barrier and yet another are there in front of us. Instead, we have to look at it not as a barrier, but try to understand what the challenge is," Lemaire pointed out. "What could it mean to have this incorporated into a change model to instead drive growth. Change is inevitable; growth is optional. You have to take change and look at it with the opportunity for driving disruption in your business. Sometimes you have to bring your business, your family, your community, and your life all together to see the change through successfully."
Cheers to a fantastic show and much more to come!