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Highlights from CPMA's Fresh Week 2024

CPMA president Ron Lemaire on the resiliency of the produce industry, plus innovation from the show floor
CPMA 2024
Ron Lemaire delivering a state-of-the-industry address at CPMA Fresh Week.

Despite environmental threats in the form of wildfires, floods and heat waves, coupled with labour woes and geopolitcal issues, the produce industry continues to be resilient, Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA) president Ron Lemaire told delegates at Fresh Week in Vancouver last week. 

“We continually face disruptions to our daily lives,” said Lemaire. “Global events continue to ripple through our networks, testing our agility and our adaptability, yet we persist. We recalibrate our routes, we forge new partnerships and ensure that the lifeblood of our industry flows undeterred.”

In his state-of-the-industry address, Lemaire spoke of three factors influencing the ongoing challenges impacting the business of selling fresh fruit and vegetables: sustainability, political upheaval and changing consumer behaviour.  

READ: Canadian Grocer's 2024 Produce Operations Survey: Pain points and opportunities


“Sustainability is, perhaps, the most talked about subject in our sector,” said Lemaire, noting that whether it’s the European Union, New Zealand, Spain, Peru or Africa, sustainability is at the forefront of conversations and this is only going to increase as governments begin focusing on policy and regulations in this area. 

Lemaire spoke of CPMA’s work in collaboration with its partners to address sustainability including a policy paper on sustainability within the supply chain released by the Global Coalition for Fresh Produce an organization that Lemaire also chairs. 

“In some ways, sustainability has been hijacked by activists and special interest groups,” he said. “It is our goal to try and bring it back and focus on a pragmatic approach that will support social, economic and environmental goals.”

Political upheaval 

More than 80 countries around the world, including Canada, are preparing for elections in the coming months and with change comes the potential for policy shifts, alliance fractures and regulation changes. “We’re not mere spectators, we are architects of our destiny,” said Lemaire. “My message is simple: today we need to look at, together, how we can address the political barriers to ensure out industry’s growth and longevity. Together, we actually are the driving machine behind the country’s economic engine and the solution to food security, and to the environmental crisis.” 

Changing consumer behaviour

He acknowledged the consumer as the most important influencer. “The consumer is driving change and they have significant power, both for us and for politicians,” said Lemaire. “They are really our focus when we sit down and look at our businesses and how they continue to evolve.” 

The challenge is how to meet the evolving needs and “complex tapestry of preferences” of very different customers including gen Zs, millennials and boomers to families, urban dwellers and health enthusiasts. But no matter the consumer segment, Lemaire said they’re all signalling the same message: they want quality products, fair prices and with the best freshness and shelf life.

Lemaire said innovation, collaboration, adaptation and leadership would be key to overcoming barriers and ensuring the future success of the produce industry.  “As we navigate 2024 domestically and globally, remember: resilience is not a passive trait; it’s a deliberate choice,” he said. “We are not victims; we are the architects of our future.”

Innovation on the show floor 

Along with educational sessions, the largest fresh produce event in the Canadian industry, CPMA Fresh Week 2024 boasted more than 600 booths with international and Canadian exhibitors showcasing their wares. 

Flip through the photo gallery below to check out some of the innovation on the show floor in Vancouver: 

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