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At CPMA show, busy aisles and tasty fruit

The produce show in Toronto last week featured an array of new products

The Canadian Produce Marketing Association held its annual convention and trade show last Thursday and Friday in Toronto, with busy aisles and a parade of new products for retailers to consider.

The show, at Toronto’s Direct Energy Centre, had 524 exhibitor booths, a 30 per cent increase from the last time the show was held in Toronto, in 2009.

Retailers from across Canada were in attendance and long lineups formed to register on opening day. Officials with the CPMA were still calculating attendance figures at press time. It appeared, however, that the number of exhibitors was a record for the event, according to reports.

SLIDE SHOW: View photos from last week's CPMA show

On the show floor, new products, new packaging and innovations in produce department equipment were on display. In particular, many exhibitors touted the convenience proposition of their products.

Clifford Produce, a Leamington, Ont.-based company, for instance, featured handy bags of cocktail-sized cucumbers called Mini Crunchers. The cucumbers, which are eight to 10 centimeters long, are for snacking and appeared popular with show-goers. At the end of the first day, Robert Gentile, a sales representative at the booth, estimated he'd already given out close to 40 pounds of cocktail cucumber samples.

Gentile said Mini Crunchers could go into lunches for school children. So too could another product: Dippin Stix Ants on a Log by Rochester, Minn.-based Reichel Foods.

Ants on a Log is a snack pack of celery with a dip comprising peanut butter and raisins. Greg Wilson, Reichel’s vice-president of sales and marketing, noted that Ants on a Log gives kids three important foods: vegetables (celery), fruit (raisins) and protein (peanut butter).

Microwavable artichokes were another convenience-oriented item. The product, sold by Salinas, Calif.-based Ippolito International, under the Queen Victoria brand, consists of two artichokes with BPA-free microwavable bags. Consumers can heat up the artichokes in just four to six minutes using the bags.

Meal kits were also noticeable at several booths. Washington-based AMF Farms had a line of pumpkin-pie baking kits (which included two small pumkins) under the brand Pumpkin Patch Pals. Spokesperson Randi Dykstra said the product has sold well on the West Coast. Her company was recommending retailers cross-merchandise the kits with whipped cream.

Another meal kit idea might have had CPMA attendees reminiscing about the 1991 hit movie Fried Green Tomatoes. The Fried Green Tomato Kit, comes in a box with two green tomatoes plus batter mix. All consumers need to do to prepare the tomatoes is add water and fry. It was available at the booth of Leamington, Ont.-based Nature Fresh Farms.

Still another meal kit came from Vancouver’s Fresh Direct Produce. The Tom Yum Soup Set is meant to give shoppers everything they need to prepare the spicy Thai soup. The kit comes with ingredients such as lemon grass, lime, chili peppers and fish sauce. On Day One of the show, a number of people were sampling the soup.

Much sampling was also taking place at booths where new fruit beverages were available. Nova Scotia-based Nova Agri unveiled a blueberry juice, Country Magic Bloo Juice, in a distinct plastic bottle. A spokesman said each 750ml bottle contains 600 blueberries.

Meanwhile, Pom Wonderful won Best New Product for its three new varieties of Pom Wonderful juice. Each mixes pomegranate juice with additional flavours: Hula (pineapple and apple juices); Mango (mango and pear juices); and Coconut (coconut water and pear juice). The products are expected to hit shelves in June.

The CPMA show drew exhibitors from across Canada and the United States. A number of these displayed new, or nearly new, varieties of produce. Among them: Sunkist had a pink variegated lemon under the trademarked name Zebra. The lemon’s rind features distinctive yellow and green stripe, while the flesh is pink and described as less acidic than conventional lemons.

Del Monte, meanwhile, was showing off its Mag Melon. Launched in the U.S. two years ago and Canada last year, the melon is known for its sweet flavour and aroma. Unlike regular melons that have a greenish rind, the Mag melon has a golden hue. It also has a thinner rind and smaller inner cavity than regular melons.

“We have customers who are choosing to exclusively use this variety now,” Dennis Christou, Del Monte’s vice-president of marketing, said.

Across the exhibition floor at the Chelan booth, a unique variety of cherry was being shown. Orondo Ruby cherries, are a patented type grown by G&C Farms near the town of Orondo, Wash. Similar to a Rainier cherry, but with a crunchier skin, the cherries are extra sweet and available in late June and early July, said Jim Busche, director of category management at Chelan.

One product that drew a lot of attention was french fries sold fresh, not frozen. Humber Valley Fresh Fries are meant to be refrigerated in the produce section of grocery stores, said Dean Wood, managing partner at Deer Lake-N.L.-based Humber Valley Potato Company. The fries contain only two ingredients (potatoes and canola oil) and have a 25-day shelf life, Wood said.

Another item that caught the eye wasn't a grocery product at all, but equipment to keep produce, meat and seafood looking fresh.

Fogmist, as the technology is called, sprays water droplets that are just six to 10 microns in size. By comparison, regular mister droplets are about 100 microns. The smaller droplets mean customers and staff can put their hand directly under the mister without getting wet. (Yes, Canadian Grocer staff tried it.)

The equipment, made by Georgia-based Prodew, is meant to answer a complaint from store employees and shoppers–that regular misters leave produce feeling overly wet, said Prodew's Itamar Kleinberger. "This new system breaks up the water droplets so it gives off a mist that's more like smoke or fog," he explained.

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