MRO Magazine

Nation’s Largest Regional Food Show, the Fresno Food Expo, Boasts Exponential Buyer Growth in 2015


July 24, 2015
By Business Wire News

FRESNO, Calif.

The 2015 Fresno Food Expo, presented by Union Bank, celebrated its 5th anniversary on Thursday, July 23 when 121 food and beverage companies ranging from producers and growers to manufacturers and processors from throughout the 8-county San Joaquin Valley met with 917 pre-qualified regional, national and international foodservice and retail buyers, restaurant chefs and institutions, as well as more than 1,100 members of the public looking to support local business.

In its five year history, the Expo has introduced 226 different Valley-based food and beverage companies to new customers and hosted 1,825 different buyers, including more than 100 international buyers. These record breaking numbers at the 2015 Expo reflect an 86% growth in number of participating exhibitors and a 400% growth in buyers since the Expo first began in 2011.

“The Fresno Food Expo which started as a local economic development initiative in 2011 with 65 food and beverage companies and 198 buyers has evolved into a powerful catalyst for economic growth in the San Joaquin Valley,” said Bill Smittcamp, Founding Advisory Committee Member and President of Wawona Frozen Foods. “Providing increased opportunities for big and small Valley-based food and beverage producers to network, create new collaborations and business contacts, increase exposure and broaden their market, all leading to increased sales opportunities. The Expo also gives our local food industry a new unified voice that is being noticed worldwide.”

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 Costco Wholesale, Food 4 Less, Grocery Outlet, Raley’s Supermarkets, Save Mart Supermarkets, Trader Joe’s, Walmart and Whole Foods Market, who walked the floor looking to connect directly with Valley companies. Complementing the domestic buyers walking the show floor were 16 qualified international buyers from Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Columbia, Costa Rica and Mexico who attended the Expo through a partnership with the Centers for Trade Development (CITD). These buyers were in search of fresh fruits and vegetables, in addition to more shelf stable products such nuts and value-add products. The Expo also garnered the attention of international export trading firms including CAS InterGlobal, Ichiban Kan, Leron Trading, Paramount Export Company and more.

“We’re already exporting our conventional almonds overseas, but our new flavored dry roasted almonds have really opened up new markets and added depth to our product offerings both domestically and internationally since we first launched in April 2015,” said Edgar Rodriguez of Heart Ridge Farms. “Today we spoke with buyers from Japan and Korea who are highly interested in purchasing our value-add products and as a first year exhibitor, we couldn’t be more impressed with the quality of buyers and key connections that the Fresno Food Expo has facilitated for us – we have many leads to follow up on after the show and look forward to the potential growth that’s out there.”

The Expo hopes to not only provide a platform for international buyers to connect with local companies, but also build global awareness about the vast and diverse agricultural food products grown and manufactured in the San Joaquin Valley, highlighting the many facets that make this region a leader in the world’s food industry.

The region’s innovation is celebrated through the New Product Awards presented by Baker Peterson Franklin CPA, LLP, which returned to the 2015 Expo with the debut of 32 new products from 29 different San Joaquin Valley-based companies that were introduced to the marketplace between July 25, 2014 and July 23, 2015. The awards program provided an opportunity for Fresno Food Expo exhibitors to enter their new food product, varietal or packaging concept for an opportunity to compete for the “Fresno Food Expo Buyer’s Choice Award” and the “Fresno Food Expo People’s Choice Award.”

All New Product entries were reviewed, ranked and then judged by a Celebrity Judging Panel comprised of food industry leaders, including world-renowned chef Erna Kubin-Clanin, owner of 5-star Erna’s Elderberry House and Chateau du Sureau; Whole Foods Local Sourcing Guru Harvinder Singh; Direct Store Delivery Receiving Manager and Local Marketing Lead of Albertsons-Safeway Northern California Division, Sean Topping; and Division Manager at leading custom packaging solutions company Landsberg Orora, Jim Jarosz based upon creativity, presentation, packaging and marketability. Top O’ The Morn Farms was crowned with the “Buyer’s Choice Award” for their Farmstead Sweet Cream Butter, then awarded a second place finish was Traina Foods’ Sriracha Sun Dried Tomato Ketchup and in third place was Busseto Foods’ Natural Salami Snack Cups.

For the “People’s Choice Award” consumers decided the winner by logging 3,271 votes during a two-week period via Facebook and the Expo website. Molucca Chocolate with 1,074 votes was named the winner of the “People’s Choice” Award for their Craft Chocolate Bars.

“Public feedback has been overwhelmingly amazing and we are blown away with how well our product has been received,” said Yohanes Makmur, Co-owner of Molucca Chocolate. “This award shows that our hard work over the last several months has really paid off. It’s been an amazing journey and with it have come so many opportunities. The Fresno Food Expo has been a stepping stone for our company and we are excited to see what the future holds for our business.”

And new to the Fresno Food Expo this year, the Fred Ruiz Entrepreneurial Award was created to honor a Valley-based food processing company who is a true innovator demonstrating exemplary leadership skills and an entrepreneurial spirit, all while being exceptional community stewards. Named in honor of Fred Ruiz, founder of Ruiz Food Products, Inc., this award honors 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. Rosa Brothers Milk Company, a family-owned operation whose business has grown 300% since launching their glass bottled milk at the 2012 Fresno Food Expo, was named the inaugural Fred Ruiz Entrepreneurial Award winner.

“This award is extra special because Fred Ruiz is such a successful leader within the food industry and we are looking forward to working with him as a mentor,” said Noel Rosa, President of Rosa Brothers Milk Company. “To be recognized in his honor is the ultimate validation of our decision to diversify the family farm just a few short years ago. Being a part of this diverse region that recognizes innovators and stands up in support of it has been an incredible experience.”

The Fresno Food Expo continues to be a strong economic development program for San Joaquin Valley companies as buyer numbers and purchasing power continues to grow, establishing our region as a global, agricultural powerhouse. The 2016 Fresno Food Expo will be July 28, 2016, and companies and buyers are encouraged to register now at www.FresnoFoodExpo.com.

Cohen Communications
Ashlee Wolf, 559-222-1322
C: 559-916-5101
or
City of Fresno
Amy Fuentes, 559-790-3204