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72nd QPMA Convention united industry as one

The Quebec Produce Marketing Association held its 72nd annual convention Aug. 8-10 in the majestic setting of the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac Hotel in Quebec City. This year’s theme, Together, let’s join the Movement! was clearly reflected in the convention’s networking activities and events where exchanges between QPMA members generated a shared sense of being together for a good cause.48575888856 8dd5a55060 z

This year’s 500 delegates were warmly welcomed on arrival by QPMA Board President Dino Farrese of Bellemont Powell and his wife Mariejosé Lacaille, together with convention chair Yan Branco of Loblaws and his wife Maryse Lacombe, with the convention itself proving to be everything they hoped for — and more.

Annual General Meeting: two new directors, multiple success stories
At the Annual General Meeting two new directors were appointed: Richard Lagacé, director of quality control, fruit and vegetable sector for Sobeys Quebec, and Ashley Pinto, category manager of Loblaws.

During the meeting, Sophie Perreault, QPMA president and CEO and member of the executive committee, reviewed a year full of achievements. Heading the list was a look back at the first year of the I Love Fruits and Veggies Movement. With a great team of ambassadors-influencers working together with various experts, the movement grew by leaps and bounds. Whether on social media or in consumers events, the I Love Fruits and Veggies team was always accessible — up close and in touch with their community. In order to clear up certain common misconceptions, the I Love Movement also publish monthly price comparisons on Facebook.

The committee also reviewed the $400,000 grant awarded to the QPMA to support the development and implementation of activities promoting fruits and vegetables in Quebec, including the deployment of communications strategies designed to reach at-risk population groups. Not to mention a $50,000 budget for an exploratory study that will boost our knowledge about the best communications approaches for raising awareness about fruit and vegetable consumption among disadvantaged population groups. Year two of the movement promises to deliver even more of the same.

Phase 2 of the study on the fruit and vegetable sector’s contribution to the Quebec economy was presented by Jean-Pierre Lessard, co-founder of Aviseo Consulting. The purpose of this second mandate was to update the study’s data and profile current trends impacting the food sector. Members had the opportunity to learn about the major trends in organic and plant-based products and about the five countries that import the most Quebec fruits and vegetables.

The executive committee then reviewed a number of internal projects such as the Members’ Great Harvest, an incentive program involving QPMA members that has helped recruit 30 new members since its start-up in January 2019.

Last but not least, participants had the opportunity to share their opinions on certain topics such as more effective representation on the board of directors through the use of real-time Poll Everywhere surveys. These topics are taken very seriously by QPMA leadership, and the compiled responses will serve as a basis for discussion at future review sessions.

Speed Meeting: new contacts – what the QPMA convention is all about
This was the second year for this win-win recipe to encourage meetings between suppliers and buyers. Once again, it was a huge success, with double the participation of last year (47 suppliers and 19 buyers).

Conferences and workshops: QPMA addressing member priority concerns
One of the six directives in the QPMA 2018-20 strategic plan was to position the QPMA as a vehicle for promotion and education. This year’s convention staged two workshops and a conference directly answering members concerns on the subject.

The first workshop was on marketing and social media and was presented by Aurélie Sauthier, an expert on social influence marketing with over 500 campaigns to her credit. Using concrete examples from the agrifood sector and role-playing, members learned how to apply best practices on each social media platform to promote their brands or products to a target audience.

The second workshop helped members to fine-tune their staff mobilization strategy in a labour market context that’s being profoundly transformed by the next generation. The workshop was presented by Catherine Privé, president and CEO of Alia Conseil and someone who has been deeply involved in organizational development and training for over 20 years.

QPMA also wanted to feature an inspirational conference in this year’s convention program. World-renowned cameraman Mario Cyr, who hails from the Magdalen Islands and is famous for his skills as a diver under difficult and dangerous conditions, raised the audience’s awareness of the consequences of climate change through stories of polar adventures, illustrated with breathtaking images.

Industry Brunch: more memorable events!
The annual Industry Brunch, hosted again this year by Alexandra Diaz, started with a panel of experts — Claude Villeneuve, professor in the Basic Sciences department of the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, Gabriel Moreau, account manager at Nielsen, and Annie Gauvin, executive director of Food Banks of Quebec — discussing “How to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables.” It was an exciting discussion, and it seems that when it comes to fruits and veggies, consumers in Quebec will want their plates to be half full — and not half empty.

The half-full target can certainly be met with a little help from the I Love Fruits and Veggies Movement, which has grown impressively since its launch in August 2018. The Industry Brunch was a great opportunity to review the movement’s remarkably active first year. This included participation in various events, the launch of an Instagram account, production of video clips with guests like Guillaume Cantin of La Transformerie or Marjolaine Beauregard of Potager Mont-Rouge, and — most important of all — the assembled team of super-motivated ambassador-influencers — led, as always, by our official spokesperson, Julie DesGroseilliers: Hubert Cormier, nutritionist and doctor of nutrition; Virginie Goudreault (Blond Story), lifestyles editor and consultant; Caroline Huard (Loounie cuisine), health blogger; and Jimmy Sévigny, fitness trainer and speaker.

Participants also had an opportunity to meet celebrity chef Hugo Saint-Jacques, the new chef ambassador for the I Love Fruits and Veggies Movement. Saint-Jacques is executive chef at Dock619 and has become a well-known public figure since his appearance on the popular Les Chefs! television show in 2010 and 2014. He was also awarded the Best Chef in Canada title in 2014. Recipes, video clips, and handy tips for cooking fruits and vegetables are already in preparation.

Mario Lalancette, QPMA director of strategy and communications, presented the new I Love Fruits and Veggies website. This contemporary, streamlined version will be chock-full of easily accessed information and is intended to become the go-to site for anyone with an interest in the subject. With seasonal produce listings, a blog, recipes, helpful advices, and reviews of scientific studies, www.ilovefruitsandveggies.ca has everything for consumers as well as industry and health professionals alike.

Josée Petitclerc of Patates Dolbec gave a presentation about member activities as part of the I Love Contest. An exciting variety of projects in four categories (digital, print , social media, and original) are helping the Movement expand its reach across Quebec and beyond. This year’s winners are:

  • Digital: Isabelle Lafont, Vergers Saint-Paul
  • Social Media: Annie Gagnon, Cultures de chez nous
  • Print: Pascal Guérin, Les Jardins A. Guérin & Fils (JAG)
  • Original: Georges Pitsikoulis, Canadawide

The Industry Brunch ended with an uplifting eighth edition of the Cultivating the Next Generation program. The program, created in 2012 encourages community involvement, supports the development of talent, and seeks to enhance and promote sustainable human resources in the produce industry. It also offers selected young produce professionals the opportunity to spend a year as an intern with the QPMA, taking part in meetings (including board of directors), and sharing their views on the issues and projects involving the QPMA, while developing their own list of future professional contacts.

Danny Boileau (Jean-Yves Boileau & Fils), QPMA's 2018-19 intern, reviewed his year of experience, including many wonderful individual and professional encounters. The year presented plenty of opportunities to take part in QPMA activities, company visits, meetings with the federal and provincial governments officials – plus personal and professional milestones, including the birth of his daughter Clara and the launch of a new variety of Ariane apple. In an emotional conclusion, he let his place to Jane Collin (Sobeys). Collin is highly motivated, experienced, and has a true passion for produce.

The brunch concluded with the announcement of a major partnership. The Desjardins Group financial cooperative, which believes in the next generation and shares the same values as the QPMA, has agreed to become a major partner in the Next Generation Program and, more broadly, in the entire Next Generation Network. This valuable financial boost and Desjardins’ expertise will enable the QPMA to significantly expand the reach of the program.

Closing Banquet: fine dining…and an emotional finish
The highlight of the 2019 convention was the Closing Banquet, which was dedicated to the art of fine dining. Alexandra Diaz was back on stage to host a five-course feast featuring elegant wine pairings by Fairmont Le Château Frontenac’s gifted executive chef, Frédéric Cyr. A number of official moments marked the evening. Georges Pitsikoulis (Canadawide) was named 2019 Quebec Pillar of the Industry, in honour of his career as head of Canadawide, one of the largest wholesalers in Quebec, and for his industry involvement in Quebec and across Canada.

“I also want to share this honour with my extended family in Canadawide and with all those who work in the fruit and vegetable sector, because in my opinion, our industry plays a key role in the world of food and health — and you are all part of that world,” said Pitsikoulis

During the banquet, the final transfer of official powers also took place. Dino Farrese had an opportunity to look back on his year as board president, marked by a number of major announcements and the launch of the I Love Fruits and Veggies Movement. In the emotional high point of the evening, he confidently passed the torch to Pascal Primiano (Super C) as the new QPMA board president, who sees his mandate as a major opportunity for making connections. He said he looks forward to seeing everyone at next year’s annual convention, Aug. 13-15 in the newly renovated Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal under the theme of “Connect, Cultivate, Grow.”