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Duda Farm Fresh Foods’ Rick Alcocer reflects on past year as CPMA Chair

Duda Farm Fresh Foods’ Senior Vice President of Sales, Rick Alcocer, has served as Chair of the Board of Directors for the Canadian Produce Marketing Association, 2017-18. His appointment marks the first time the post has been held by an American, non-Canadian, person.

Alcocer’s appointment began on May 11, 2017 at the CPMA Convention and Trade Show in Toronto, Ontario, and will end on April 26, at the 2018 event being held in Vancouver on April 24-26.

Rick-Alcocer-3Rick AlcocerHe said that when taking the helm as chair, he focused on three key areas he felt are important for both the industry and for the association: food safety, trade and member growth and development.

“I am very pleased that we have achieved success in each area,” said Alcocer.

Under his mandate he wanted to ensure that the CPMA continued to support member’s knowledge of food-safety and regulatory changes, including education on what was essential to meet market demands.

“To accomplish this, we launched a series of food-safety forums across the country,” said Alcocer. “Supported by our new Food Safety Specialist, Jeff Hall, these forums were well attended in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Leamington and Montreal, and we will be delivering one in the Halifax area after the convention.”

The forums focused on what the industry needs to know to be ready when both the Safe Food for Canadian Regulations come into effect this year, and as the Food Safety Modernization Act continues to be applicable. While the two sets of regulations have alignment, there are still differences the industry must recognize or their products could be held back from market. Alcocer advises members with questions to connect with Hall.

“Another aspect important to highlight is our new CPMA Canadian Food Safety Fund,” he explained. “Over the course of the last year, staff and volunteers have been framing the model to support food safety research in Canada. CPMA has committed funds to support this effort — $350 thousand to date —and has begun fundraising to create a sustainable program for ongoing research. As government regulates our sector more and more, it is vital that we have a science-based approach to dealing with food safety. This fund will support this approach.”

Regarding trade, Alcocer said it was fortuitous that for the first time in CPMA’s history it had an international chair at the helm. Trade has been a very important and crucial area of focus for CPMA staff and volunteers.

“Being an American I feel I was able to lend support to our efforts in the U.S. on NAFTA through meetings with State Senators, State Assembly Members and Members of Congress and their staff,” he noted.

“I have worked to ensure the views of our members were addressed when working to maintain or develop free and fair trade agreement in North America, as well as other jurisdictions like China, and within the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“In all, CPMA had a very active year related to trade,” he continued. “I met with over 20 stakeholders, while staff and volunteers have held over 90 meetings with politicians, political staff and senior bureaucrats, and 60 of those meetings discussed NAFTA. CPMA was also active in corresponding our views and position on market access and trade with emerging markets.”

To support global markets,   CPMA was present at Fruit Logistica Berlin and Hong Kong.

It also hosted two successful Ready for Trade luncheons with foreign embassies in Ottawa and Vancouver.

“The two luncheons last fall included dignitaries from over 20 countries, and supported ways to connect their produce industries to the Canadian market,” noted Alcocer. “The trade file will be ongoing, and I am confident we have a clear vision and message to government to ensure there are no barriers to trade when supporting existing markets and when developing new markets.”

Membership is the foundation of CPMA, and supporting growth and development is key to its success. Alcocer said three areas supported its work with members over the past year: Town Halls, educational tools and the CPMA Convention.

“I am pleased by the industry uptake and participation in our free member podcasts and webinars since May 2017,” he said. “In 12 months we had over 17,000 downloads and logons.”

“The final element that drives our market and connects businesses looking to grow in Canada is our Convention and Trade Show,” he continued. “I am very pleased, but this could not have accomplished without the team in British Columbia, and our CPMA staff. Murray Driediger and his team of volunteers are truly a community of produce professionals who supported me — an import chair — to make this event one of the most successful in our history.”

Alcocer’s involvement with CPMA has a long history. He has served as a director for 18 years. Before being appointed chair, there is mandatory involvement of two years in two special committees — Leadership and Executive. In addition, he currently serves on the CGIM and Marketing committees — where he also served as chair — and he served on the Education Committee.

His history in the produce industry goes back much further. Hi first job after graduating from the University of Southern California was with Dole Fresh Vegetables; known then as Bud Antle Inc.

“I was hired as a financial analyst and worked within many departments on special projects,” reflected Alcocer. “Eventually I worked on a grower-shipper acquisition which forced me to analyze the feasibility of incorporating their product line into Doles, working with both sales departments.”

He was hooked by the excitement and passion in the sales office, and recalled that it was all phone conversations then.

After eight years at Dole, he moved to Tanimura & Antle, spending his first year traveling the United States. and Canada, working on a special project for Rick Antle.

“Once completed, I hit the sales desk,” he said. “Over the course of my 13-year career with T&A, I held the positions of salesperson, general sales manager and director of retail sales,” he said. “In 2003 I left to join Duda Farm Fresh Foods as director of fresh sales, managing sales offices in Florida, Texas and California.”

Now, as senior vice president of sales, he manages the sales offices in addition to having built a regional sales network around the United States and Canada.

Canada is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. Alcocer stressed that it’s been great to travel through the provinces and personally witness the pride Canadians have for their country.

“I have been coming to Canada since the early 1990s, and I continue to have the same warm and affectionate feelings for the country and Canadians that I had during my first visit,” he said.

“I think the entire world got an insightful glimpse of what Canada is all about during the Winter Olympics. Canadians are hard working, motivated, fun-loving individuals with great national pride. The entire globe is going through so many changes right now, and not all of it is good. Canada remains a bright beacon for the world.”