(May 23, 2:28 p.m.) CALGARY, Alberta — “Live full. Die empty.”

Those words, from motivational speaker Les Brown’s May 15 opening breakfast at the Canadian Produce Marketing Association convention, were fresh in attendees’ minds as they went to business sessions and walked the exposition show floor.

As a reminder to make the most of opportunities, Brown’s advice rang true as growers, shippers, marketers and others in the North American produce industry took advantage of business sessions ranging from technology to U.S.-Canada trade, and met with potential customers on the show floor at the Calgary Telus Convention Centre.

The convention, titled Produce, The Natural Energy, ran from May 14-16. It was the second year for the association’s shortened three-day convention, and the smallest exhibition area in the show’s rotation. Next year, the convention will be May 6-8 in Toronto.

Although exhibitors’ opinions on the strength of traffic on the exhibition floor varied, informal polling showed that contacts with retailers and target customers was positive, with more time to talk business.

“It’s a little bit smaller than some shows, so the interest we see here is strong,” said Jim Konczal, senior packaging applications specialist for Sealed Air Corp., Duncan, S.C.

Hot topics on the show floor often mirrored those in morning business sections.

“Sustainable. Biodegradable. Compostable,” was the to-the-point response from John MacDougall, general manager of Celplast Packaging Systems Ltd., Toronto, when asked about show-floor talk.

“Everyone’s talking about traceability and wrestling with it,” said Gregory Cummins, vice president of sales and marketing for E.W. Brandt & Sons Inc., Parker, Wash.

Like E.W. Brandt’s bar code tracking system that notes where each box of fruit was grown and where and when it was packed, other companies displayed traceability labeling. B.C. Tree Fruits Ltd., Kelowna, British Columbia, and Red Hat Cooperative Ltd., Redcliff, Alberta, had apples and tomatoes, respectively, with GS1 Databar stickers. Those stickers, when scanned, trace each item through the supply chain.

First-time exhibitor Layfield Vision Packaging showed its resealable pouches and other packaging options.

“It’s a great show, and we’re already booked for next year in Toronto,” said Michael Mikan, marketing coordinator of packaging products.

Mikan won’t be alone, according to David Lauer, communications coordinator for the CPMA.

Exhibitors filled more than 260 exhibit spaces at the Telus Centre, and 40% of the 400 exhibit spaces available in 2009 have already been booked, Lauer said.

Friday night’s annual banquet dinner formally welcomed Beth Pattillo as the association’s first chairwoman in 83 years. Pattillo, the director of marketing for grower-shipper Kings Produce Ltd., Canning, Nova Scotia, succeeds Larry McIntosh, president and chief executive officer of Peak of the Market, Winnipeg, Manitoba.