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Insider Events – Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA) Annual Convention and Trade Show

Insider Events MPI50

By: Nicole Jeffrey, CMP | May 27, 2022

Title: CPMA Fresh Week: Industry Reunited 
Date: April 5-7, 2022 
City, Province: Montreal, Quebec

Palais des congres Montreal logo

Host Venue: Palais des Congres de Montreal

Organizing Team:

Nicole Jeffrey Headshot

  • Nicole Jeffrey, CMP – Manager, Events at the Canadian Produce Marketing Association
  • CPMA staff (sales, communications, marketing, programming, registration, education teams)
  • Volunteer Industry Organizing Committee


Number of Attendees:

  • Approximately 70% Canadian; 25% American; 5% international
  • 525 exhibit spaces


Who was the target audience?

All major stakeholders and decision makers in the produce supply chain, with many representing the retail, wholesale, and foodservice sectors.

trade_show Breakfast-29

What was the main objective of the convention and trade show?

The main objective was to provide an opportunity for the industry to enhance existing relationships and develop new business opportunities in Canada as well as provide educational offerings for the industry.

What was unique/different about this particular event?

This was our first in-person convention and trade show since 2019, so it was very exciting to be able to reunite the industry. With the large trade show component and an industry that places a lot of focus on in-person relationships, the ability to see and taste the produce was important for everyone. As well, there was a large number of American participants who have begun attending events in the US over the last year or so that were itching to get back to the Canadian market.

What impact did COVID have on the planning process?

Focusing on the logistics for the event was very much a moving target. With such a long range planning window and not knowing what protocols would be in place during the event, we focused most of the planning at the beginning stages around hosting the event as if we were pre-pandemic, business as usual. We created a rough sketch of the alternative options available (larger meeting space, room set ups, different protocols and distancing) for a variety of scenarios that could be fleshed out as we got closer to the event if needed.

Planning a fully in-person event was always the goal. We discussed the possibility of adding a hybrid component, however given the additional costs and logistics behind adding a virtual component, coupled with how eager participants were to attend in person, especially for the trade show, it wasn’t an avenue that made sense.

Pandemic restrictions had opened up significantly by early-December, but Omicron locked everything down and put us back into uncertainty. January was a rollercoaster as we continued to move things forward as much as possible, but had to work with a shortened timeline on many of the logistics. And then, Quebec’s timeline on reopening was not announced until the second week of February so we were unable to confirm what protocols would be in place during the event.

Although distancing requirements were no longer in effect during our event, we decided to move the pre-event committees to larger rooms with higher ceilings and one of our larger receptions into a bigger space.

Mask mandates were still in effect, so we worked in conjunction with the venue to develop additional signage at the entrance and on the show floor. Announcements were made in the show hall periodically to remind attendees about mask protocols.

The US participants still required a negative test to enter Canada, so in order to make things go smoothly for the American participants we with Business events Montreal who arranged with a covid testing partner company to host a clinic at the event venue where attendees could get their test easily before they had to travel back.

What was the biggest obstacle you/your team had to overcome?

Shortened timelines and more crystal ball gazing than usual! There were a lot of details to pull together, and the foundation on what everything else is based usually starts with answering the big questions first, rather than last – what space do we need, what floorplan will we use, and what kind of event will we be able to hold?

We also wanted to ensure that we were communicating event protocols with our attendees and exhibitors, which was of course, challenging to keep up with on any given day. One week I think I rewrote my health and safety information for our exhibitor update email three times between the draft and final version! We also provided general links to government covid information, and 6-8 weeks out we provided more specific updates around the event and then regularly updated and communicated the ongoing changes.


Did you do anything new or innovative? If so, how did it go?

After hosting a fully virtual event in 2021, one element from virtual that we added into the physical event was a more robust product search to our online /mobile app exhibitor directory that would allow exhibitors to be found by their products, as well as their product categories.

We also introduced a Step Challenge app, which tracked participants steps throughout the week on a leaderboard, with bonus codes for additional steps for participating in trivia, or visiting our feature areas and education sessions.


What was your biggest triumph?

We were so thrilled to be able to finally bring the industry back together – in person! – after three long years. Our theme this year was ‘industry, reunited’ which was our focus - to be able to have the industry reconnect and grow into the future.

It was a real team effort to pull this event off, and our venues and partners including the Palais des congrès, Le Westin Montreal, GES, TKNL, and Business Events Montreal were hugely supportive, hardworking and incredibly flexible in the ever-changing planning.

Cynthia Headshot Article edited by Cynthia Beaudin, Canada Foundation for Innovation



Nicole Jeffrey Headshot 2
Nicole Jeffrey, CMP
Manager, Events at the Canadian Produce Marketing Association at Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA)

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