CPMA Convention 2017: What Blew Us Away (#WBUA)

Full of excitement and a little uncertainty, Dan’l and I boarded our flight to the annual CPMA Convention last week feeling hopeful. Not only was it the first time for both of us to visit the bustling Canadian metropolis of Toronto, but it was also the very first time for DMA Solutions to attend this produce expo. We weren’t entirely sure what to expect from the show, but we had heard many great things over the years from our colleagues in the industry and decided to give it a go. The result? We can honestly say that the CPMA Convention just might become one of our favorite produce events of the year.

Here’s a look at what blew us away in Toronto:

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First things first, we have to say that we are smitten with Toronto. Dan’l and I decided to try out the UP Express train from the airport to Union Station, which was close to our hotel. From the moment we stepped onto that train we were impressed with what Toronto had to offer! Getting to our hotel was a breeze (we hear we dodged some grizzly traffic!) and the walkability of the downtown area near the convention centre made getting around simple. Plus, the rumors are true: the Canadians we encountered couldn’t have been more friendly and helpful as we asked questions and navigated the unfamiliar city without any trouble. We chose to stay at the Fairmont Royal York, which was an exquisite hotel experience that we can’t recommend enough to anyone planning some time in Toronto. We will certainly be back to spend more time off-the-clock exploring this town!

The Convention Itself

Fortune Cookies.jpgThe expo was so well organized and the perfect size to not feel rushed to get from one end of the tradeshow floor to the other. While this might not be the case for everyone’s schedules who attended, Dan’l and I never felt hurried or overwhelmed which was a breath of fresh air when it comes to tackling a tradeshow! Not to mention the amazing start times – we LOVED that CPMA chose to start keynotes around 9:30 am and open the show floor in the afternoon on the first day and just before Noon on the last day. This gave us the opportunity to really enjoy the evening activities without a 7 am breakfast session in the back of our minds. Kudos!

Excellence in the New Product Showcase

We were amazed to see the effort brands put into their displays in the new product showcase. The truth is, product showcases are an underutilized marketing opportunity that give brands to provide a passive and summarized overview of what’s new and what they’re working on. We were glad to see that most of the brands in CPMA’s new product showcase were motivated to put their best into their displays. From creative use of the space to videos and stickers, here are a few stand out displays from the show: 

 SUNSET® – Mastronardi Produce 

Once again, SUNSET® blew us away by including videos playing on a loop within their displays that showcase the product in action and demonstrate to buyers how consumers will enjoy using the products. We especially love the contrasting colors in the Dill it Yourself™ Pickle Kit display! 
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The Little Potato Company 

This display really stood out on the shelf against its neighbors with more contrasting, vibrant colors. We love the messaging and use of space   with the URL to learn more clear across the bottom of the display.

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Bolthouse Farms

We loved this striking display featuring the new 1915 Organic Juices from Bolthouse Farms. Not only is it brilliantly simplistic, but the sticker on the center of the glass was a little different and makes the booth number impossible to miss.

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Produce as Art

A theme emerged in booth displays at this show that we have rarely encountered: produce as art! Several exhibitors took their products to the next level by including some sort of artistic photography, display, canvas prints and even an artist in action to capture the attention of passersby.

Earth Fresh Foods 

With what was certainly one of the most creative displays of produce on the show floor, we stopped to admire the Earth Fresh booth for quite some time! This team chose to hire a local artist to create a work of art using potatoes, and she delivered! When the tradeshow floor opened, the artist began in the bottom right corner of her “canvas” and by the end of the show the following day, an incredibly beautiful display emerged! In fact, the entire booth was a work of art; from the walls, to the photography, to the beautiful moss that filled in the Earth Fresh logo. With a little creativity, Earth Fresh proves that you can take anything ordinary (like a potato) and turn it into the extraordinary.

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Prince Edward Island Potatoes

PEI Potatoes offered a unique display by showcasing prints that they were giving away after the show to attendees who submitted their business card. I stopped to inquire more about the prints and loved learning that the prints were taken by one of their own potato farmers, Bryan Maynard. Their story behind the prints was fantastic and is a great example of a brand bringing a very personal touch to their tradeshow display in a way that stands out.

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Highline Mushrooms 

We love everything about this gorgeous booth – the contrasting colors, the beautiful layout and the modern seating – but what really caught our attention is the way Highline chose to showcase mushroom photography on the booth. Mushrooms aren’t typically an item most folks would think of as beautiful, however this booth’s photography not only made mushrooms into art, but they made they showcased their incredible beauty! The second photo (below) in particular really captures the mushroom in a way that almost feels musical!

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Standout Products

One of the things we enjoyed about CPMA was seeing so many companies and products local to Canada that we had never come across before. And although not all of these stand out products are from Canadian companies, there were several exciting innovations that caught our attention during the expo.

Mann Packaging

The award for best new product at the expo went to the well deserving Mann’s Nourish Bowls. After checking out the on-trend flavor options and low-carb solutions these products offer, we can’t wait to find them in our local supermarkets here in Dallas! Seriously – you can’t go wrong with flavors like “Sesame Sriracha” and “Cauli Rice Curry.” YUM! 

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The Little Potato Company

This company continues to stand out as forward-thinking in terms of their marketing efforts to reach the consumer. Just a few years ago, this brand could easily get lost in the shuffle amongst so many potato options, but their recognition of the power of marketing has transformed them into a can’t-miss brand that we’ve got an eye on! We loved their messaging fighting consumer misconceptions about potatoes and I couldn’t help but giggle at this sweet banner as I walked around their booth. This company also understands the concept of turning the ordinary into something extraordinary with their helpful and convenient product offerings and meal solutions! 

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Jazz™ Apples

Produce nerds like us are always thrilled to discover new varieties, so when we walked past the bright blue Jazz™ apples display, we we’re immediately drawn in! Jazz™ recently underwent a rebrand, and we love the vibrancy and movement they incorporated into the new branding elements. Blue is not a choice you commonly see for apples, which makes the bright blue label a sure fire way to stand out in the produce aisle!

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Highline Mushrooms 

Highline Mushrooms gets a double shout out from us because we were blown away by their unique packaging and positioning of mushroom products in a way that no one else in the category is currently doing that we have seen. These products included mushrooms prepped and positioned for a specific purpose AND cuisine, which is right on trend with the meal-time solutions we know consumers are looking for. The back of the package includes clear usage instructions and cooking recommendations for home cooks who might not be familiar with cooking with mushrooms on a regular basis. We’re just disappointed we can’t get these products in Texas (yet!). 

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The Freggie™ Children’s Program

During the final hours of the show, we quickly noticed that the show floor suddenly became crowded with groups of wide-eyed children! We were amazed to learn about this program offered by CPMA that brings a few local classes to the convention so they can experience the wonder of how their food is grown. As the children filed into booths, the exhibitors excitedly showcased their products and handed out samples for all to enjoy. We watched several children exclaim that “these tomatoes taste like candy!” as they sampled a few straight off the vine in the SUNSET Mastronardi booth. This was an incredible reminder as to why we do what we do every day – to help people discover the beauty of these products and to inspire them to “choose fresh” as much as they can!

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With so many options events, conventions and tradeshows now available to fresh produce brands, it can be a challenge to prioritize. What we found in Toronto at CPMA was exactly the type of unique and rewarding tradeshow experience we believe this industry craves!

We’ve already marked our calendars for CPMA on April 24 – 26 in the beautiful Pacific Northwestern city of Vancouver. We will see you there, eh?