MONT TREMBLANT, Quebec — The Quebec Produce Marketing Association’s new president won’t have much time for his favorite hobby in the next 12 months.

Robert Beauregard, first vice president of Agri-Mondo and an avid salmon fisherman, has chosen “Growing the Next Generation” as his theme for the coming year.

In his first speech to the annual QPMA convention, Beauregard praised outgoing president George Pitsikoulis, president of Canadawide, as an innovative entrepreneur dedicated to his family and to serving the produce industry.

Like Pitsikoulis, Beauregard learned the industry from the ground up. He started packing groceries part-time at a Montreal Dominion store in 1972, and moved up the ranks to become a produce buyer, fruit specialist and eventually category manager for Sobeys-IGA and the Metro chain, where he was head of central negotiations.

Always on the lookout for new challenges, he moved to Montreal-based Agri-Mondo last year to learn the importing side of the business.

“At every step along the way, there have been key people who helped me,” he said. “I hope to play the same role as a mentor and work with the people who will follow in our footsteps.”

Beauregard promised to find ways to encourage more young men and women to consider a career in the produce business, and said the industry must pay particular attention to those just starting out in the industry, who include his own son.

“These young people, with their energy and new ideas, represent an incredible engine of prosperity for our industry,” he said. “But they need the support of men and women of experience.”

Keeping young people is one of the produce industry’s biggest challenges, he said in an interview, yet it’s the perfect career for someone who enjoys working with people in a world that offers fresh challenges daily.

“Even after nearly 40 years, I’m still learning new things,” he said.

As a first step to communicating more effectively with the public and with QPMA members, he said the association is launching a user-friendly corporate website in September with more up-beat visuals and member news.

He cited QPMA’s partnerships with schools, day-care centers, a parents’ magazine and the Dairy Farmers of Canada as a way to reach more moms and kids and spread the message of healthy fruits and vegetables.

“And that’s just for starters,” he said.

Beauregard has been a member of QPMA’s administrative council since 2001. In that time, he has headed the association’s finance committee, congress and government relations committee.

The father of two and his wife, Denise Ross, recently welcomed their first grandson, who became the youngest conference participant at nine days of age.