The 2016 Fresno Food Expo brought together 132 of Central California’s food and beverage growers and manufacturers with nearly 950 pre-qualified regional, national and international foodservice and retail buyers, and nearly 1,000 members of the public looking to discover food and beverages made in Central California.
This is nothing new to the nation’s largest regional food show, originally developed as an economic development initiative by the City of Fresno in 2011 to spur business and innovation among Valley-based food and beverage companies. Its mission is to act as a platform that increases the commerce and connectivity of these Central California companies, while creating a regional identity centered on the celebration of food production and the experience food inspires.
“The innovation I saw at the Expo is remarkable. There were so many diverse, quality products that I had never seen before,” said Tracy Sellers, host of California Bountiful, produced by the California Farm Bureau Federation.
In its sixth year, the Expo has evolved into a standalone nonprofit organization under the oversight of a 13-member Board of Directors, which includes a collaborative group of top food industry leaders who have all witnessed first-hand the importance of food in the region.
The Expo’s elevated attention drew big buyers with high levels of purchasing power from some of the largest and most recognized domestic retail outlets including ALDI, Costco Wholesale, Food 4 Less, Grocery Outlet, Save Mart Supermarkets, Walmart and Whole Foods Market, who walked the Expo floor looking to connect directly with companies from the region.
Complementing the domestic buyers were 37 qualified international buyers from Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Ecuador who attended the Expo to meet one-on-one with qualified fresh produce companies, not only from the Valley but also the western U.S. These one-on-one meetings were made possible through a partnership with the California Centers for Trade Development and the Western United States Agricultural Trade Association in an effort to spur exporting, not only in California, but the United States as a whole.
New to the Expo this year was a culinary portion of Expolicious, the evening celebration, where 10 restaurants from throughout Central California prepared local bites using food found on the Expo floor to bring the flavors of the region to life. A new suite of awards were added to commemorate this event and were decided by world-renowned author, broadcaster and food advocate Simon Majumdar, who came to the Expo to further highlight the innovative and diverse foods found in the region.
“Coming from a small town, I’ve always been one to seek out the hidden gems, and Central California is just that, a hidden gem with a rising food scene that people need to take notice of,” said Majumdar.
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 this region as a global agricultural powerhouse. Next year’s Fresno Food Expo will be July 27, 2017.