The 2017 Fresno Food Expo brought together 142 of Central California’s finest food and beverage growers and manufacturers to showcase high quality local products to more than 650 pre-qualified regional, national and international foodservice and retail buyers matching products to market needs for increased sales. Additionally 16 Valley restauranteurs and celebrity chefs cooked up exhibitor-only dishes during the recent two-day show and over 1,100 members of the public joined the celebration of food, innovation and commerce found in Central California’s San Joaquin Valley.
The Expo’s expanded exhibitor platform supplemented the food show with a year-round network of business growth opportunities and allowed for participating companies to connect with national and international food experts who believe in Central California’s vibrant food scene.
“The Expo is all about listening to the needs of our exhibitors and making meaningful connections to grow their businesses, expand collaborations and draw focus to celebrate Central California’s thriving food industry,” said David Nalchajian, General Manager, Fresno Food Expo.
To continue providing local food and beverage companies with top-tier connections, the Expo also focused on bringing quality, high-level buyers with great purchasing power to the show floor. Top buyers attending this year’s Expo included: Costco, Safeway, Walmart and Whole Foods.
Complementing the domestic buyers were 21 qualified international buyers from Central America, Mexico and Southeast Asia who attended the Expo to meet one-on-one with qualified fresh produce companies from the Valley and also the Western U.S. The Expo also garnered the attention of 22 international export trading firms.
The distinctive 2017 New Product Awards, presented by Baker Peterson Franklin CPA, LLP, returned with the debut of 28 new products from 26 different Central California companies. This awards program provided Expo exhibitors an opportunity to enter their new food product, varietal or packaging concept to compete for the “Fresno Food Expo Buyer’s Choice Award” and the “Fresno Food Expo People’s Choice Award.” Strong company partnerships and product collaborations were an emerging trend amongst participating Expo companies. Products included almond butters, flavored nuts, seasonings, infused olive oils, craft beers and liquor, healthy snack packs and more.
The 2017 New Product Awards Buyer’s Choice Award winners were: Tioga-Sequoia Brewing Company’s Half Dome California Wheat in first place; ENZO Olive Oil’s ENZO Fresno Chili Crush in second place; and Busseto Foods’ California PartyPack-Wine Trail Edition in third place.
The 2017 People’s Choice Award, which is entirely determined by the public through online voting, logged 2,621 public votes during the July 13 – July 25 voting period via Facebook and the Fresno Food Expo website. The Brioche Lady received 661 total votes for their Purple Yam Brioche. Rosa Brothers Milk Company and Lanna Coffee Co.’s Cold Brew Coffee Milk took second; and Sun-Maid Growers of California’s Sour Strawberry Flavored Golden Raisins took third.
Returning to the Fresno Food Expo for its third year, the Fred Ruiz Entrepreneurial Award honors an innovative Valley-based food or beverage company that demonstrates exemplary leadership and an entrepreneurial spirit, all while being an exceptional community steward. Named in honor of Fred Ruiz, founder of Ruiz Food Products, Inc., this award recognizes companies who have the same vision and qualities that took Ruiz Foods from a small, family start-up to the largest frozen Mexican food manufacturer in the United States. The 2017 Fred Ruiz Entrepreneurial Award winner, ENZO Olive Oil, will also receive advice and mentoring for one year by Fred Ruiz and a team of food industry professionals.
During Expolicious, the Expo’s public event, attendees not only tasted, discovered and purchased product from the 142 participating exhibitors, but they were treated to a culinary experience put on by 12 Valley restaurants who were connected with 2017 Fresno Food Expo exhibitors to create fresh and exciting menu items unique to the region.
The Fresno Food Expo continues to be a strong economic development program for Central California companies as buyer numbers and purchasing power continues to grow, establishing the region as a global agricultural powerhouse.