Who will be the next Valley business to use the Fresno Food Expo as a launching pad for expansion?
While some companies use the Fresno Food Expo to reach new markets, others hope to find companies that can help them expand their businesses locally.
The all-day event on Thursday (July 26) consists of a breakfast in the morning, with California ag secretary Karen Ross delivering the keynote address.
Starting at 10 a.m., vendors will be on the floor, demonstrating their wares to each other.
At 5 p.m., doors open to the public. For $50 a ticket, foodies can sample “expolicious” for themselves — meats, cheeses and a near-endless variety of foods.
Food Expo Growth
Then-mayor Ashley Swearengin spearheaded the concept in 2011, to “invite our region’s food industry companies to exhibit their products to national retail and foodservice buyers,” according to the Expo’s website.
The first event took place in March 2011, featuring 65 vendors, 200 buyers and 450 members of the public.
Now in its eighth year, the annual event has grown steadily. Organizers expect 140 vendors, 700 buyers and 1,200 members of the public to participate in this year’s edition.
While the city of Fresno initially founded the Expo, operations were transferred to an independent nonprofit that has run it since 2015.
The expo also provides a chance for businesses to introduce new products and compete for the New Consumer’s Choice Award.
La Tapatia Tortilleria
“Getting a buyer’s interest at the Expo is helpful for us.”— La Tapatia’s Yvette Cuellar
For one Fresno maker of Mexican food products, the Food Expo helped with international expansion.
La Tapatia Tortilleria has been making tortillas and chips in Fresno for more than 50 years. Located at 104. E. Belmont Ave., the company employs approximately 150 people and provides Mexican food around the Valley and the world.
Among La Tapatia’s customers are Valley restaurants and local school districts.
“Getting a buyer’s interest at the Expo is helpful for us. We make that connection, then we are able to follow up afterwards — show them everything we have to offer and what we can do for their business,” company publicist Yvette Cuellar said.
This year, the company entered its California Spicy BBQ chip line in the new product contest.
“It’s got a great spicy flavor; not too spicy, just a hint of spicy and a real smoky barbecue. It’s very flavorful,” said Cuellar.
Cuellar said the inspiration came as a team effort
“We have a research and development department. One of our guys said, ‘why don’t we try out something that has barbecue California?’ We can barbecue here all year round,“ Cuellar said.
Yes, you can infuse bourbon with pistachios.
And last year, Velvetree, LLC, the makers of Wicked Harvest Pistachio Bourbon exhibited their premium whiskey at the expo. The goal of the grower-owned company was to meet local retailers and restaurateurs. However, they did a lot better than that.
They ended up shipping the pistachio bourbon, which is finished in wine barrels, to 25 Total Wine & More locations in California and 65 other retail and restaurant locations in California, Oregon, and Kentucky, according to expo officials.
Ampersand Ice Cream
“The combination seems really good. It is one of our most popular specials this month.”—Ampersand owner Jeff Bennett, on its new blueberry honey flavor
For Ampersand Ice Cream located on Tom Seaver Lane (across the street from Fresno High), this will be its first Fresno Food Expo.
“We are expanding as a company this year,” said owner Jeff Bennett. With plans to double the size of its current production kitchen, which is at its store, Bennett hopes to find vendors to help him at the expo.
“We are looking into more wholesale and retail that we will be doing in the next couple of years. The Expo gives us the opportunity to start meeting clients and people for that,” Bennett said.
Bennett also hopes to utilize the Food Expo to find more suppliers of local ingredients. Staying local is one of his biggest objectives, Bennett said.
One of Ampersand’s most popular scoops is entered in the new product contest — honey blueberry.
“We have a local farmer, Royal Dawn Berries (of Kingsburg), that brought us berries. We are experimenting with those a little bit, and mixing them with Bradshaw Honey (of Visalia),” Bennett said. “The combination seems really good. It is one of our most popular specials this month.”
If You Go
What: 8th Annual Fresno Food Expo
When: Thursday, July 26 (vendors only 10 a.m.; public 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.)
Where: Fresno Convention & Entertainment Center at M and Kern streets
Tickets: $50 available online or at the convention center (pre-show tickets can be purchased for $40 at Cumulus Media, 1071 W. Shaw, Fresno)