By Elizabeth Louise Hatt
The Canadian Produce Marketing Association is bringing its convention and trade show back to Vancouver this year. The Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA) has some surprises up its sleeve. Retailers interested in finding them out are going to have to attend the CPMA’s Convention and Trade Show on April 2-4 in Vancouver, B.C., Canada, say CPMA officials. Among the events that show officials will disclose are the Retail Produce Manager and Foodservice educational programs, a fun-run to raise money for Freggie Children’s Program, motivational speaker Spencer West’s keynote, the retail panel and video presentation and a retail tour to four unique retail outlets aboard a trolley, to name a few. CPMA and its national health partners will also be launching a consumer outreach program, Half Your Plate. “The dynamic nature of the produce industry comes to life at the CPMA Convention and Trade Show through the delegates, exhibitors and sponsors,” says Ron Lemaire, president of CPMA. “Relationship-development and knowledge-sharing continue to be differentiators with competitors in the Canadian marketplace. This event, now in its 89th year, is Canada’s largest fresh fruit and vegetable convention and trade show, providing an appropriate venue for businesses to connect and for relationships to develop, which drives a market environment where produce outperforms its retail floor space.” With produce innovations developing at a faster-than-ever pace, attendees can expect to make more than a few discoveries on the trade show floor, specifically in the new product showcase, one of the show’s highlights, say officials. Three trends that stand out to the industry are the growing use of locally sourced food; healthy meals and sides for children; and the increasing use of exotic herbs and spices. Also to be addressed at the show is the growing concern about food waste, portion sizes, product knowledge and usage, as well as the popularity of consumer experimentation with new or unfamiliar items. “Interestingly three in four Canadians are buying a fruit or vegetable that they weren’t buying five years ago,” says Lemaire. Grocery Headquarters spoke to a number of exhibitors to uncover the highlights of the trade show floor. Here is what attendees can expect to see. Del Monte Fresh Produce Booth 803 Del Monte Fresh Produce will be showcasing the fresh cut fruits and vegetables available out of its new distribution center in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. Del Monte offers a range of party trays and pack sizes in a variety of packaging types and different cuts, as well as custom sizes or blends. A new line of products that include proteins will be introduced at the show. Canada is a very important region for Coral Gables, Fla.-based Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A., say company officials. As seen in some of its recent promotions, such as “Gold for Gold” and “Find Your Inner Chef,” Del Monte caters to the market with a bi-lingual promotional platform and makes an effort to increase its Canadian consumer base and participation. “Canada’s participation and Canadian consumer engagement far exceeded our expectations,” says Dionysios Christou, vice president of marketing. “We will continue to include Canada in all of our North American promotions in the 2014 year.” Dole Fresh Vegetables Booth 503 Dole will be introducing two Salade Kits developed exclusively for Canada that feature kale paired with dressings and toppings. The Dole Salade Kits—Kale César and Sweet Kale—are part of Dole’s ongoing product-development and marketing efforts specific to Canada, says CarrieAnn Arias, director of marketing for Canada, at the Monterey, Calif.-based company. “The company develops salad kits and blends that appeal to the tastes and preferences of Canadian salad lovers, and then works with Canadian retailers to market them according to the specific bilingual demands of the marketplace. While these two new kits are similar to Dole kits that will launch later this year in the U.S., the Canadian versions offer unique ingredient, dressings and packaging differences,” she adds. FirstFruits Marketing Booth 710 FirstFruits Marketing is celebrating its third year of commercial production for one of Broetje Orchards’ newest apple varieties, the Opal. Spreading the word about the apple will be a major focus for Yakima, Wash.-based FirstFruits, says Keith Mathews, CEO, as volume is expected to near a million euro cartons in the next five years. Ralph Broetje, owner of Prescott, Wash.-based Broetje Orchards, parent company of FirstFruits, has the exclusive right to grow, pack and sell the “heirloom” in North America. The apple is a natural mutation of Topaz—not grown in the U.S.—and Golden Delicious. “It has an ‘old world’ look to it with a little bit of russet around the stem and an iridescent bright yellow color. The flavor is very unique and it is the only naturally occurring non-browning apple that we know of,” says Mathews. Although the apple has so far been marketed more in the U.S., it does have a strong following in Eastern Canada, so company officials are excited to bring it to the Vancouver show. Idaho-E. Oregon Onion Committee/USA Onions Booth 642 The Idaho-E. Oregon Onion Committee/USA Onions represents the more than 300 growers and shippers in Southwestern Idaho and Malheur County, Ore. Candi Fitch, executive director for USA Onions, says the organization has a lot to offer the Canadian market and is excited to continue to build its presence. The Parma, Idaho-based association will feature a new video about its Spanish onions. “We created a video that shares information about the growing regions and our harvest,” says Fitch. “It is a tool for retailers to learn about our onions, and it also offers consumers some handling and chopping tips, including how to cut an onion bloom without an onion bloom cutter.” The CPMA Convention is a really great show, says Fitch. “We have participated in the show for a number of years and find it is a great place to meet with customers. It helps us get exposure and thank our customers.” Idaho Potato Commission Booth 1038 The Idaho Potato Commission (IPC) will remind retailers that the “Grown in Idaho” brand, which is recognized around the world, is right around the corner. Headquartered in Eagle, Idaho, IPC tailors its strategy to Canadian retailers to meet Canadian consumers’ demands for Idaho potatoes. For instance, the IPC recognizes the significance of the role re-packers play in the Canadian market by distributing the Idaho product under their label, with the Idaho seal, of course. “Re-packers are important to us,” says Seth Pemsler, vice president of retail/international. “We want to meet with those that we are doing business with and the ones we are not doing business with to remind them that they too can qualify to pack Idaho, and they can pack Idaho in their own label. There are some major retailers that don’t carry us at all or don’t carry us across that many divisions, so there is growth potential for the Idaho brand.” The IPC also extends the majority of its marketing programs to the Canadian market and therefore has a lot to share with retailers. “This is a really good show for our agenda; we are excited to meet with our existing and new customers,” says Pemsler. Litehouse Foods Booth 218 Litehouse Foods is bringing its Greek yogurt-based dressing to Canada. Branded as Opa! By Litehouse, it is the fastest growing product that has been launched in the refrigerator dressing category, according to company officials. Doug Hawkins, senior business development manager, expects it to be a success due to Canadian consumers’ propensity toward health and fresh products. “Refrigerated dressings have a higher household penetration in the Canadian market; it is closer to 30% versus about 15% in the U.S. because of Canadians tendency to look for healthier options in fresh produce,” he says. “Yogurt is on fire in Canada as far as an ingredient and a staple product, and Greek yogurt is starting to catch on so we thought Opa! was a prime target launch.” The Sandpoint, Idaho-based manufacturer’s other focus is its Instantly Fresh line of freeze-dried herbs. Featuring the storage capacity of a dried herb, they have the taste and nutritional benefit of a fresh herb as soon as they are rehydrated. Although the herbs have been selling in the Canadian market for about 10 years, the company is ramping up its educational platform directed at consumers, and there is increasing conversation about the benefits—taste and convenience—of the herbs, says Hawkins. National Watermelon Promotion Board Booth 305 The National Watermelon Promotion Board (NWPB) hopes to be sharing good news with CPMA attendees about the state of the watermelon season. With Mother Nature’s fierce treatment this past winter, the board’s officials are already receiving questions about when retailers can expect watermelons on store shelves. Canada is, after all, the Orlando, Fla.-based organization’s largest export market, says Gordon Hunt, director of marketing and communications. Hunt says Canadians’ propensity to eat more produce than other consumer bases aligns with the organization’s health and nutrition messaging. One area of research currently gaining attention in the media is the nutritional benefit of watermelon as a recovery aid for athletes. The NWPB is doing its part to share the positive findings. “The research says that watermelon helps your muscles relax after they have been seriously strained. I think this will be an interesting insight for the ‘weekend-athlete’—people who sit at a desk all week and then play hard on the weekend,” says Hunt. POM Wonderful/Paramount Farms Booth 531 The family of Wonderful brands—POM Wonderful, Paramount Farms and Paramount Citrus—will have its entire portfolio of products at CPMA. Wonderful Halos mandarins, Texas grapefruit, lemon and limes will be representing the Paramount Citrus division of the business; POM Wonderful will showcase all of its products, including POM Blends (POM Coconut, POM Mango and POM Hula) and 100% Juice; and Paramount Farms will be sharing its Wonderful Pistachios and Almond Accents as well as introducing the latest face of its brand—Steven Colbert. The campaign starring the Emmy-award winning host and executive producer of Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report, was launched in February during the Super Bowl under the theme, “Get Snackin, Canada.” Under the full-year agreement, Colbert and Wonderful Pistachios’ in-house creative agency FireStation will team up to create a series of several spots throughout 2014 highlighting the “Get Snackin” rallying cry. Rainer Fruit Co. Booth 707 With planning for cherry and blueberry season front of mind, Rainier Fruit Co. will be showcasing its cherry pouch bags that debuted last season. With the bags available at this year’s show, officials for the Selah, Wash.-based company will be able to discuss the merits of its cherry sales strategy. Additionally, this year signifies Rainier’s largest crop of Lady Alice brand apples to date, which should be available through the end of April, offering a few more weeks of shipping coming out of CPMA. “Our Lady Alice appeals to the increasing Foodie culture. It is a significant contributor to the ‘other’ category during the second half of the season, and according to AC Nielsen numbers, the ‘other’ category has grown in both dollars and volume during the 2013 crop year,” says Suzanne Wolter, director of marketing, adding that the company receives numerous requests weekly from consumers. Viva Tierra Organic Booth 833 Viva Tierra is adding a tropical touch to the produce department. The apple and pear grower/importer jumped on an opportunity to import kiwis from Italy, and it seems to be just what consumers want. The Sedro-Woolley, Wash.-based organic grower imported a single container back in December that sold out “very quickly,” says Addie Pobst, organic integrity and logistics lead. “A lot of those made it into Canadian supermarkets with a positive response, so I expect retailers will be looking to bring in more. I also expect the kiwis will be attractive to some new customers. It is brand new to us and I don’t think people expect kiwis when they talk to Viva Tierra,” she says. The show’s timing coincides with the beginning of Viva Tierra’s import program out of Argentina and Chile, so the company’s representatives will be discussing what is available from those locations, as well as its year-round program. “We like to share our year-round program with potential customers; that is really where a more sustainable business relationship starts,” says Pobst. Krops that help the hungry The CPMA show’s business sessions may be packed, but one of the most meaningful lessons will be taking place around the trade show floor. Katie Stagliano, founder and chief executive gardener of Katie’s Krops will return to CPMA to host students as part of the Freggie Children’s Program, a school program in Canada designed to help children understand the benefits of making healthy food choices that include fresh fruits and vegetables. The 15-year-old entrepreneur shares her mission: “To start and maintain vegetable gardens of all sizes and donate the harvest to help feed people in need, as well as to assist and inspire others to do the same,” which she satisfies by providing grants to school-aged students to start their own vegetable garden and grow produce for charity. “I hope by attending CPMA and speaking to Canadian youth I can perhaps inspire some of them. I want to show them that age is just a number and that there isn’t anything they can’t do to change the world. I hope they walk away saying ‘I am going to dream big too,’” says Stagliano. Katie’s Krops, based in Summerville, S.C., has received the support of a number of growers, including W.P. Rawl, FirstFruits’ Opal Apples and RPE’s Tasteful Selections. “Their support has allowed us to grow the footprint of Katie’s Krops coast to coast, and has allowed us to reach consumers in grocery stores everywhere,” Stagliano says.