July 27, 2017

Central California’s Food Industry Connects with Top Buyers and Public At Nation’s Largest Regional Food Show

Central California’s Food Industry Connects with Top Buyers and Public At Nation’s Largest Regional Food Show

Commerce Flourishes at the 2017 Fresno Food Expo, which Continues to Shape Central California’s Food Industry, Culture and Experience

Fresno, California – July 27, 2017…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 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 including: New York Timesbest-selling author Greg Lederman who shared strategies for effective leadership to increase team productivity; various exhibitor training sessions with topics like food safety, business acquisitions and branding in the digital era; an exclusive meeting between food writer, cook and Food Network TV personality Simon Majumdar and 35 regional restaurateurs and chefs who discussed the benefits of coming together to increase locally-crafted cuisine to expand the region’s position as the “Food Capital of the World” beyond farming and production – to a prideful food community and destination for the world to admire and savor; and “Supermarket Guru” Phil Lempert who led this year’s keynote address with remarks on consumer trends, the new retail environment and the role of Millennials and technology in our changing marketplace.

“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. “The synergy experienced this year among exhibiting companies is unlike what we’ve seen before. You’ve heard the reference ‘the seven year itch.’ In the case of the Fresno Food Expo, our seventh year has unleashed opportunity for year-round enrichment for our exhibitors where they’ve been able to immediately utilize tools and put them to work as part of overall growth strategies. The regional food industry, national and international buyers and the public are coming together at an entirely different level, which is both exciting and humbling.”

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. To do so, a new software technology was implemented that required documentation to ensure only qualified decision-makers with buying authority had access to the business-to-business portion of the show. This new program, used at national and international industry trade shows, further elevated the value of the Expo and its place as a top-tier food show. 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. These one-on-one meetings were made possible througha partnership with the California Centers for Trade Development and the Western United States Agricultural Trade Association in an effort  to increase exporting, not only in California, but the United States as a whole.The Expo also garnered the attention of 22 international export trading firms.

“Our region is known world-wide for the quality and variety of products found right in our backyard,” said Alicia Rios, Director, Center for International Trade Development, State Center Community College District. “When we received interest from numerous buyers all across the globe to attend the Fresno Food Expo during this season, it put into perspective just how lucky we are to live in a region where food and food production have endless possibilities. We are proud to help source international buyers for the Valley and equally proud to serve as a center for export training for all those interested in expanding their international footprint.”

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 Buyer’s Choice Award first narrowed down the products to 10 finalists by a panel of marketing and food industry leaders at the New Product Awards Preview event, “Taste, Tally & Tweet,” on July 12, 2017. These 10 products then advanced to the Celebrity Judging Panel, where judging took place on creativity, presentation, packaging and marketability on July 26. The judging panel was comprised of professionals from retail, restaurant, foodservice and packaging industries including: the Supermarket Guru, Phil Lempert, who led the Expo’s keynote address; Direct Store Delivery Receiving Manager and Local Marketing Lead of Albertsons-Safeway Northern California Division, Sean Topping; and European Division Manager at leading custom packaging solutions company Landsberg Orora, Jim Jarosz. 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.

“We’ve been part of the Fresno Food Expo since the beginning using it as a catalyst to launch our brewery. Along the way we have recorded many successes with buyers and grown exponentially, but this year to win the Buyer’s Choice Award with our Half Dome Californian Wheat, our highest-selling beer, is incredible and will help propel this product even further,” said Mike Cruz, President, Tioga-Sequoia Brewing Company. “It is such an honor to win a competition of this level, with the quality of products being showcased and remarkable innovation. Central California puts out some of the best products in the world.”

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. The People’s Choice Award allows the public to share their thoughts as a consumer, voicing their opinion on what products standout from others in the marketplace. This year, 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.

“We are passionate about food and creating a unique and authentic product,” said Leng Thao, Owner, The Brioche Lady. “Our Euro-Asian inspired brioche has been so well received by the public and we can’t thank everyone enough for voting. We are thrilled to turn this momentum into future growth and continue bringing a little bit of France to the Valley and even beyond.”

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, further promoting the importance of restaurants as a prime catalyst in stimulating the local economy and regional pride by choosing to locally-source their menus. Food writer, cook and Food Network TV personality Simon Majumdar was back again to taste and judge the delicious bites; his selected winners for this year were: Rev’s California Cuisine Braised Short Rib Tacos Braised in Tioga Sequoia 99 Golden Ale with ENZO Fresno Chili Crush Foam, Corona Cheese and PK Farms Micro Green finished with caviar limes forMost Creative; Bella Luna’s Farmer’s Market Salad with Sunnyland Mills Bulger Wheat and Quinoa, Traina Sundried Tomatoes, Fresno State Sweet Corn, Roasted Peppers, Arugula and ENZO Olive Oil, along with and Harris Ranch Beef Slider with BBQ Aioli, Deb’s Gourmet Sweet Smokey Jalapenos and Onion Strings forBest Use of Exhibitor Products; and The Painted Table’s Pork Cheek on Spanish Potatoes Braised in Tioga Sequoia Firefall Red and Tioga Sequoia 99 Golden Ale, paired with the Hibiscus Sour from House of Pendragon forBest Food & Beverage Pairing.

“The Fresno Food Expo showcases all the Valley has to offer in terms of products both fresh and finished; Expolicious and this restaurant competition turns the spotlight on creative people, people with passion who take these products and create unique dishes. These people, the chefs showcasing local products are the backbone of this big food movement that is taking place right now,” said Vinnie DeAngelo, Owner and Chef, Bella Luna Restaurant in Merced. “To win this award means everything. Simon Majumdar has judged the best chefs all around the world, so to have him here raving about our creations and our products brings validity to what we’re doing here.”

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 our region as a global agricultural powerhouse.

Link to download photos from the 2017 Fresno Food Expo: https://spaces.hightail.com/receive/5e4TnZZ4Gn.

About Fresno Food Expo

Originally developed as an economic development initiative by the City of Fresno in 2011, the Expo has since emerged as the nation’s only exclusively regional food show bringing together growers, processors, manufacturers and industry service providers with buyers from around the world. Since its debut, the Expo has brought heightened awareness to the region’s food production industry as new, innovative businesses emerge and industry collaborations form as a direct result of the show. The Expo has introduced 305 different food and beverage companies to new customers and hosted 2,680 different qualified buyers, including over 100 strategically recruited international buyers. The Fresno Food Expo is a 501c6 nonprofit organization led by a 14-member Board of Directors, with current daily management services provided by Nalchajian Management Group.

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