Talking Shop with… Ron Lemaire

Ron Lemaire, president of CPMA (Canadian Produce Marketing Association), is excited about the recently launched Half Your Plate program. 

Tell us about CPMA.
Ron Lemaire: CPMA has been advocating for the produce industry and for the increased consumption of fruits and President-Ron-Lemairevegetables since 1925. What is most interesting is that, even though our name has changed a few times over the past nine decades, many of the same issues we faced back then remain today. Having said this, we are making some great headway, we have successfully worked toward creating harmonized regulations to decrease the burdens on our members to get great quality produce to consumers; we continue to meet with government officials to help create an awareness of the issues related to health, traceability and other areas and we have been creating venues for people of the industry to meet, create connections and ultimately do better business. Our convention and trade show that wrapped up in early April was one such event. As the largest of its kind in Canada, it has a large draw, and this year was no exception. This venue also allowed us to launch our new Half Your Plate consumer program, which we are excited about.

Tell us about the Half Your Plate consumer program.
Half Your Plate is based on support materials to Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating, and offers Canadians a simple, clear message for making food choices. The message has been developed in consultation with representatives from the entire produce industry, health organizations including the Canadian Cancer Society, Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Canadian Public Health Agency as well as regional produce marketing associations (British Columbia, Calgary, Ontario and Quebec) and concerned stakeholders. The new program aligns with efforts that are already working in the U.S. and provides a consistent healthy eating message for all of North America.

The Half Your Plate logo will be available to all CPMA members and partners to use on packaging, on their websites and in promotional materials. We are confident that the logo will quickly become recognizable to consumers and serve as a reminder to them when shopping or preparing meals and snacks. Consumers will be able to access the new website for recipes, produce purchasing and storage tips and other information.

How does it benefit retailers and what can they do to maximize the program?
We already have the large retail chains on board with the program and great interest from the independent retail community. Both chain stores and independents see the program as beneficial because it allows them to provide point-of-sale information to consumers through the medium of one common, recognizable brand supported by industry and the health community. This, combined with the wealth of information that we have made available on produce, as well as collateral that is available for retailers, enables them to increase their sales of fresh fruits and vegetables. Many Canadians find they do not have the time to prepare meals from scratch, and we are trying to educate them on the many ways to prepare meals quickly. There are quite a few new products that were highlighted in our trade show’s New Product Showcase, that were dedicated to this. That is the new trend in consumption: quick and easy, but above all, healthy.

Tell us about future CPMA events.
We have our annual Health Summit in May that we are preparing for, as well as our 4th annual Fall Harvest: Meetings on Parliament Hill in November. But we are always attending events throughout the year from all over Canada, the U.S. and even Europe.

If it is something that is important for our members, we attend. We hope to see many new faces in the future at all of our events; as the industry continues to grow—no pun intended—we expect that to be the case, moving forward.

Also, Member webinars and podcasts are a fundamental part of how CPMA supports its members. To address the challenge of time away from the office and the cost of travel, CPMA continues to support its members by providing education opportunities from the comfort of their desk or home. These virtual events will be a foundational element to the new educational tools offered by the Association.

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