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Incoming CPMA Chair Walt Breeden is the director of sales and citrus category manager, Canada, for The Oppenheimer Group. His new responsibilities will include supporting key priorities and focus areas within CPMA’s 2013-14 strategy.

He began his career at Woodward’s food floor in Vancouver in 1977 and moved into the role of produce buyer in 1984. After Safeway bought Woodward’s three years later, Mr. Breeden moved to The Oppenheimer Group, taking a sales representative position. He began by procuring California-grown produce and selling it to customers throughout western Canada. Over the next 25 years, he built his knowledge and experience at Oppy, becoming a sales manager for imported products in 1997 and director of sales for Canada in 2012.

Mr. Breeden currently manages Oppy’s pivotal Chinese and Japanese Mandarin and Tottori pear programs, and he oversees the company’s sales offices in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto. In his sales leadership role, he is a key participant in Oppy’s strategic planning process and cites importing North America’s first square watermelon from Japan in 2002 as a career highlight.

In January 2013, The Oppenheimer Group became part of the Total Produce family. Based in Dublin, Ireland, Total Produce is a full-service produce marketing and distribution company. While it has a similar business model to Oppy, it is on a much larger.

The new partnership has increased access to new markets, better-positioned Oppy to invest in new opportunities and will allow for greater efficiencies to better serve growers and customers. Oppy is continuing to operate autonomously.

As incoming CPMA Chair, Mr. Breeden will be following in the footsteps of soon-to-be past CPMA Chair Jim DiMenna, president of JemD Farms, whose accomplishments Mr. Breeden praised. He will officially take over chair duties at the upcoming CPMA event in Toronto. “Jim did an excellent job as chair, and through his leadership he influenced many areas of the association. I think his greatest contributions were made in the development of the renewed strategic direction for CPMA,” said Mr. Breeden.

While current programs and activities will be maintained, the following focus points were identified for the coming year’s strategy: strengthening education and training for members, and expanding consumer awareness; revitalizing CPMA’s industry marketing/consumer message to encourage healthy food choices for Canadians; expanding work with allied partners, including regional association partners through the Food Systems Approach; development of national and regional councils; continuing the foundation established by CPMA’s strategic renewal, building on the vision and focus on key business lines — market development, industry simplification and corporate services.

Mr. Breeden listed building consumption as one of the key concerns, which he also sees as a key opportunity facing the industry today. We can expect the year ahead to see CPMA’s energies focused on bringing a new energy to that message and advocacy playing a big part of that equation. The recent announcement by CPMA of Advocacy Week to be held in June is testament to the focus for the year ahead. “It is important that members of the industry participate on a regional and national level to influence policy and legislation that enables access to safe, fresh fruits and vegetables for all,” stated Mr. Breeden.

We can also expect to see efforts dedicated to the development of national and regional councils, and the offering of support that can be customized regionally. “And as always, the consumption message — with a particular focus on kids — is critical,” he said.

Mr. Breeden will also spend the coming months working closely with the convention committees to develop a high-powered event for Vancouver 2014. “The theme is Eat Healthy, Live Healthy. I think those are words we can all get behind as an industry, and I look forward to creating a convention program that is thought-provoking and meaningful and delivers value to our members,” stated Mr. Breeden.

In addition to being incoming 2013-14 chair of CPMA, Mr. Breeden also sits on its executive and human resources committees, and contributes to the efforts of the education committee. He was also involved in the launch of the Passion for Produce mentorship program, which is held annually during the CPMA Convention & Trade Show, allowing up-and-coming industry stars to be mentored and gain valuable insight and networking opportunities.

Mr. Breeden has long supported the produce industry by offering his time, knowledge and efforts through his volunteer work. He has also been involved with the BC Produce Marketing Association for many years, holding the positions of director and president.

There have been 89 CPMA chairs over the years, of which five were working for The Oppenheimer Group when they were serving. “I am proud to be part of that group, and I like what it says about our company’s commitment to giving back to the industry,” he said.