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A Rigorous Debate: From Retail To Grower, What Makes Canada Unique And How To Profit From It

For some time, Canadians and Americans were able to move back and forth by air, but only recently has the land border reopened. Still, even during the pandemic, the US and Canada function as a closely integrated market.

We thought it made sense to gather in New York a group focused on the Canadian market and review  the past, the present and look to the future.

So we went across the supply chain from production to retail and foodservice, reaching out to six Canadians and one American responsible for her firm’s Canadian business.

Ron Lemaire, President of the Canadian Produce Marketing Association, and the Pundit will discuss with the panel the unique characteristics of the Canadian market, the nature of recent supply chain disruptions, how consumer behavior has changed due to COVID and how this can be used to boost produce sales in the future. We will discuss how the foodservice sector has survived and may yet conquer and go onto broader topics such as sustainability and innovation.

It is an important moment for the Canadian industry and for cross-border collaboration. It is an honor to unveil our panel:

Mimmo Franzone
Retail – Produce and Floral

Starting his career in the produce industry at an early age, Mimmo developed a passion for food while working in the family business.  With a strong taste for quality and unique offerings, it is no surprise that Mimmo is the Produce Expert at Longo’s. 

It has been a 18 year journey for Mimmo with Longo’s; from produce clerk to Senior Director of Produce, Floral and Merchandising Services; Mimmo’s love for produce has been felt by many.  Mimmo’s mission is to bring Longo’s guests all the flavours and experiences that the world’s crops can offer.

One of the differentiating aspects of Longo’s is their long-standing relationships with grower partners – both locally and abroad.  Mimmo has been integral to continuing to build sustainable relationships with partners to ensure Longo’s delivers the freshest and finest produce, regardless of season. He has extended this philosophy to the leadership of his team, from conducting farm tours, both locally and in the USA, and continuing to enrich the knowledge and passion of his team.

Ron Lemare
Canadian Produce Marketing Association

Mr. Lemaire brings over 19 years of experience within the domestic and international fresh fruit and vegetable supply chain, and will discuss with the challenges and opportunities from a Canadian context as we emerge from the various waves of the pandemic.  He will dive into how the Canadian fresh fruit and vegetable food system works to ensure they meet the need to supply safe, quality, and affordable produce year-round. With this in scope, Mr. Lemaire will frame how systems in Canada are pivoting to the fast-paced change that manoeuvres through global regulatory swings, variable climate, food safety outbreaks, disruptive supply chains and technology advancements to meet the ever-changing Canadian consumer demands and expectations. 


Mario Masellis
Director of Sales & Marketing
Catania Worldwide
Golfer / Philanthropist /
Motorcycle Enthusiast

Born of Italian immigrants in Toronto Ontario, Mario proudly holds Canadian and Italian citizenship.  While studying Economics and Political Science at the University of Toronto, Mario worked as grocery clerk for the Food City Grocery Chain.  It is there that he met a lovely cashier named Sandra who became his wife of 27 years. 

Mario Masellis is the Director of Sales & Marketing for Catania Worldwide.  Before being named Director of Sales Mario was M.L. Catania’s Account Executive for Retail programs and was responsible for the development of custom packaging for retail customers in Canada.

   Prior to joining Catania Mario developed his trading skills at the Ontario Food Terminal.  Mario is currently Vice Chair of the Canadian Produce Marketing Association.  His philanthropic work includes fund raising for the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto through the Smiles of Innocence Memorial Charity. 


Hutch Morton
Senior Vice President
J.E. Russell Produce

In his role as Senior Vice President at J.E. Russell Produce, Hutch is responsible for strategy, business development and compliance. Hutch supports the relationship of key strategic partners and sets strategies for the marketing and product mix at the company.  Hutch also manages the Food Safety and Health & Safety compliance for the family-owned company of over 60 employees. Prior to joining the family business, Hutch was a digital pioneer in mobile entertainment and emerging consumer technologies.

George Pitsikoulis
Wholesale / Importer

Canadawide is a wholesaler/importer/distributor importing from around the world as well as sourcing locally grown…to distribute throughout Canada…mainly eastern Canada. Now with over 400 employees, the company was  started by my father and mother  and is now owned by my brothers and I. I‘ve been with company since it was established in 1983. Coming to New York is a special, treat because, in the early years of our company, my father’s first imports came from New York.

I was born and raised in my family’s green grocer stores. Proud winner of CPMA’s inaugural corporate culture award in 2019. Winner of the Quebec Produce Marketing Associations Pillar of the Industry award in 2019.  Serve as a director and on the Executive Committee of Canadian Produce Marketing association and past chair of the Quebec Produce Marketing Association. I serve as a director of Fruit and Vegetable Dispute Resolution Corporation. Proud grandpa of three.


Stephan Schmekel
Executive Vice President of Sales
and Marketing

North American Produce Buyers

Over 30 years in the Produce industry, I started my career at Dole Fresh Fruit and then spent 18 years as Canadian Vice President Sales at Del Monte, followed by Vegpro International as North American VP Sales.  I then joined North American Produce Buyers LTD as Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing. My areas of expertise are the Southern Hemisphere Fruit Import programs. I was Chair of the QPMA in 2015-2016, and still an active Governor on the Board. I’ve been a Director on the Board of CPMA since 2011 , active in their Marketing Committee and as a mentor on the Passion for Produce Program.


Jennifer Zavala
North American Category Manager Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
Gordon Food Service

Jennifer Zavala, North American Category Manager, Fresh Fruit & Vegetables, Gordon Food Service

Jen Zavala is the Fresh Produce Category Manager for Gordon Food Service (GFS) responsible for the produce program across the GFS footprint in both the United States and Canada. Her areas of professional focus are sustainability and developing interest and diverse talent in the agriculture industry.

In 2021, Jen was chosen as top 40 under 40 by Produce Business Magazine for her work and contributions to the produce industry. With over 20 years in the hospitality industry, Jen is known for developing innovative and strategic programs, building strong vendor partnerships, and delivering financial performance.


Engaging in this type of discussion helps the industry advance. It also provides insight into how one’s own company can seize opportunities and prosper.

We hope you will want to be a part of this discussion.

You can register for The New York Produce Show and Conference right here.

If you would like a hotel room at the Headquarters Hilton, let us know here.

The show website is at this link.

And,, we are always happy to answer questions if you drop us a line here.

We look forward to seeing you in New York!





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