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PMA Fresh Summit gets back to basics with produce merchandising

CPMA hopes election results will mean more government support for future produce policies

The Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit last weekend in Atlanta was all about making it easier for shoppers to buy more fruits and vegetables.

After several years focusing on issues such as food safety, global trade, and sustainability, this year’s conference went back to basics by helping retailers and suppliers sell more produce.

The conference featured educational session covering everything from the use of data technology by retailers and grocers, to how colours factor into the shopper appeal for both product and signage.

On the expo floor, more than 3,300 buyers sampled the latest varieties being promoted – jicama and kohlrabi seem to be very hot – from more than 1,000 exhibiting companies and saw the latest packaging and services offerings.

The Canadian Produce Marketing Association once again had a booth on the show floor, and this year showcased flexible packaging from Canadian growers and marketers, as well as newer varietals and Canadian beer and wine. Ron Lemaire, president of CPMA, confirmed the merchandising and flexible packaging trends are strong in Canada.

“We see many retailers leveraging the learnings of the centre store to capture both boomer and millennial purchasing, and see a move toward online access for product information,” Lemaire said.

He also cheered the election of Justin Trudeau as the next prime minister, suggesting the industry can expect greater government support for the national fruit and vegetable policy CPMA has been pushing.

This year’s event also had First Lady Michelle Obama sharing a personal message with the produce industry during annual State of the Industry Address and the announcement of a partnership to bring fresh produce to the small and big screens. “I want to thank all of you for your outstanding work to promote fruits and vegetables across this country,” said Obama.

The strategic alliance with the Entertainment Resource & Marketing Association—the association of entertainment marketing professionals—is pledged to bring fresh produce centre stage through television shows, movies and online entertainment. As part of the alliance, ERMA will advocate the use of fresh produce in entertainment production and track that use. PMA will assist ERMA to make fresh produce available as those entertainment opportunities arise.

PMA’s 2015-2016 Board of Directors were announced. Jim DiMenna, CEO of Red Sun Farms, Ontario, and Oleen Smethurst, assistant general merchandise manager for Costco Canada, were re-elected. John Anderson, chair, president and CEO of the Oppenheimer Group is retiring from the board.

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