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Five highlights from the CPMA show

New products and celebrity chefs featured across the show floor

The Canadian Produce Marketing Association’s annual convention and trade show wrapped up Friday in Montreal, after three days of events, educational sessions and bustling activity on the show floor. Canadian Grocer was there and we found these highlights:

1. New Product Award Showcase Winner: The top award at this year’s CPMA, as chosen by a jury of industry pros, cleverly combined health and salad. Fresh Express Healthy Plus Kits (pictured), from Chiquita Brands North America, are 200-gram salad kits formulated for specific medical concerns.

The “Digestive Health Kit” for instance, comes with added fibre. Ingredients in the mix include kale, beet tops, spinach and carrots. There are two other varieties in the Healthy Plus line: a Health and Wellness Kit and Dietary Antioxidant Kit.

2. A call to cook: A high point of the show came on Thursday when celebrity chef Michael Smith took to the stage, speaking about the importance of getting people cooking again, regardless of their culinary proficiency. His best lines: “Perfection in the kitchen isn’t necessary” and “the right way is to fill half your cart with produce and who cares if you burn it.”

We’ll be hearing a lot more from Smith. The host of Food Network’s Chef Michael’s Kitchen and judge on Chopped Canada, is the new ambassador for CMPA’s Half Your Plate program, which aims to get Canadians to fill half their plate (and thereby half their shopping cart) with fruits and vegetables.

3. The joy of innovation: The produce sector is especially savvy at finding new ways to turn Mother Nature’s produce into something new for supermarket shelves. One noteworthy example was Avocado Chocolate Mousse from Calvano. This vegan, gluten-free pudding substitute is 42 per cent Haas avocados. Rick Joyal, Calvano’s national sales manager, noted that the creamy, sweet treat contains only four other ingredients: rice milk, agave nectar, cocoa and vanilla extract. We tasted it. Yum!

4. Convenience rules: Several exhibitors at CPMA displayed new products aimed at making produce consumption easier. One nifty item that stood out was Fresh Cut Pomelo from Fresh Direct Produce in Vancouver. This line consists of two products: 220-gram sliced and 160-gram chunked pomelos in clamshell containers. They’re aimed at on-the-go snackers. It can take 15 minutes to cut and prepare a whole pomelo and this product lets people enjoy the fruit anywhere, anytime.

5. Produce industry greats: CPMA recognized the work of those involved in produce in Canada with two awards. Ben Alviano, national manager for Canada with Mann Packing, won the Mary FitzGerald Award. The award goes to a Canadian produce professional under 40 who has shown a dedication to the produce industry and community involvement.

Christian Bourbonnière of Metro was given the CPMA’s Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to produce throughout his career. Bourbonnière started in grocery as a bag boy and moved up the ladder from produce manager, to produce buyer to head office executive. He’s now senior vice-president and Quebec division head at Metro.

Next year’s CPMA show will be held April 12 to 14 in Calgary.

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