In year eight, the highly successful Fresno Food Expo outgrew its name.
So organizers of the nation’s largest geographically-focused food industry tradeshow unveiled a new banner Thursday: California Food Expo.
And next year the expo will become a two-day event.
“Our production value in both fresh and manufactured products, our innovation and our diversity make California a food powerhouse,” said expo manager Amy Fuentes. “The Expo’s vision to incorporate all of California enables us to harness the state’s thriving food industry and connect buyers to authentic California brands.”
Bill Smittcamp, president of Wawona Frozen Foods, applauded the name change.
“Fresno is the logical location for a world-class food expo, and the expansion and shift to the California Food Expo is the first step on a path to further showcase all regions of California and the incredible food and beverage companies that reside in the Golden State,” Smittcamp said.
Over 135 exhibitors touted their products to more than 650 pre-qualified regional, national and international buyers at the Fresno Convention Center.
(Click on the video above to see the sights and sounds from Thursday’s exhibitor’s session.)
The California Food Expo brand reveal followed a keynote address by Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
“California is the nation’s top agricultural producing state, accounting for $46 billion in output from over 400 different commodities. The state is also home to more than 5,500 food manufacturing facilities, twice the amount of any other state in the nation. These astounding numbers give the California Food Expo an incredible platform to fortify California relationships and continue to expand the industry into the future.” — California Ag Secretary Karen Ross
Some of the top buyers on hand included Bristol Farms, Whole Foods, Grocery Outlet, Smart & Final, and Walmart. In addition to the domestic buyers, international buyers from India, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, and international export trading firms journeyed to the expo.
ENZO’s Table Peach Jam captured first place in the New Product Awards competition. Ampersand Ice Cream Honey Blueberry Ice Cream and Producers Dairy Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream tied for second place in the judging. 51 Fifty Passion Fruit Orange Guava Energy Drink took third.
“Our Peach Jam showcases the beauty of California — when a farmer from Clovis can connect with an award-winning chef in Los Angeles like Jessica Koslow from Sqirl — it’s an incredibly humbling feeling,” said Vincent Ricchuiti, Founder, ENZO Olive Oil.
The first round of voting for the new Consumer’s Choice Award was done online by the public and drew more than 6,000 votes. A panel selected the final winner, La Tapatia BBQ Tortilla Chips. Taco Works Tortilla Chips placed second, and Bobby Salazar’s Guacamole Salsa was third.
Tioga-Sequoia Brewing Co. was honored with the Fred Ruiz Entrepreneurial Award. That competition is open to any exhibiting California food or beverage company.
Fred Ruiz, left, presents the Fred Ruiz Entrepreneurial Award to Tioga-Sequoia Brewing Co.
During Expolicious, the Expo’s public evening event, over 1,200 attendees sampled new bites created by 11 Central California restaurateurs and celebrity chefs utilizing products from the show floor.
Food writer, cook, and Food Network TV personality Simon Majumdar judged the creations.
His selected winners:
— Best Taste, Max’s Bistro & Bar for Sweet Corn Chilled Chowder.
— Best Presentation, Ampersand Ice Cream for Rummy Plummy, Oakey Smokey Peach and Almond Amaretto taster plate.
— Best Use of Local Products, Bella Luna for Strawberry Watermelon Cooler and Harris Ranch “Short Rib” Slider.
2019 California Food Expo Info
The 2019 California Food Expo will be July 24-25, 2019.
Exhibitor reservations are available for $900 until March 1, 2019. To register, http://bit.ly/FFERegister.