A collaborative group of top food industry leaders in Central California’s San Joaquin Valley came together to celebrate the formal launch and open registration for the 2016 Fresno Food Expo that will take place July 27-28, 2016. Now in its sixth year of operation, the expo has evolved into a standalone 501(c)6 nonprofit organization under the newly announced oversight of a 13- member board of directors, with current daily management services provided by David Nalchajian, Inc. The announcement took place on Monday, March 14, 2016 at Fresno-based Sunnyland Mills, a valued Expo exhibiting sponsor and America’s oldest producer of premium bulgur wheat.
Board members leading this charge have been involved in the Fresno Food Expo since its inception serving in various advisory capacities including Chairwoman of the Board and City of Fresno Mayor, Ashley Swearengin; Vice Chairwoman of the Board, Agnes Saghatelian, President of Valley Lahvosh Baking Company; Board Secretary, Vincent Ricchiuti, Director of Operations for Enzo Olive Oil Company; Board Treasurer, Denver Schutz, Technical Services Manager of Gerawan Farming; Mark Ford, President of JD Food; Mike Grazier, President of Busseto Foods; Helen Chavez-Hansen, Owner and President of La Tapatia Tortilleria, Inc.; Jimmy Maxey, Chairman of Certified Meat Products; Chuck Nichols, President of Nichols Farms; Rod Noll, Vice President of the Western Region for US Cold Storage; Justin Parnagian, Sales Director for Fowler Packing Company; Fred Ruiz, Co-Founder and Chairman Emeritus of Ruiz Foods; and Bill Smittcamp, President & CEO of Wawona Frozen Foods.
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 heightened the awareness of the region’s food production industry and watched new, innovative businesses emerge and new industry collaborations form as a direct result of the show. It has introduced 226 different food and beverage companies to new customers and hosted 1,825 different qualified buyers, including over 100 strategically recruited international buyers. With this impressive track record, the 2016 expo already has nearly 50 percent of the show floor filled with returning exhibitors.
“Through the insight of these top food industry leaders over the past five years, the Fresno Food Expo has brought the region together in incredible ways not just as an agricultural community, but as a food community,” said David Nalchajian, General Manager of the Fresno Food Expo. “We are excited to build upon our success as a show and we look to forward to further capitalizing on industry successes in every category to increase awareness of our food production industry and celebrate its quality, its diversity, its uniqueness, and its value on both a national and international scale.”
Unlike any other trade show, the Fresno Food Expo offers the opportunity for local, regional, national and international buyers to connect with the actual Presidents and CEOs behind some of the nation’s largest food industry companies with the invitation to explore products in every category and learn from budding food entrepreneurs who migrate to the region.
“A third-generation, family-owned and operated business, we are the oldest manufacturer of bulgur wheat in the world and pride ourselves in purchasing 90 percentage of our raw materials from right here in the Valley,” said Steve Orlando, President of Sunnyland Mills. “For our company, the Fresno Food Expo provides an invaluable opportunity for networking, to share ideas and to be a part of something bigger than ourselves as we see businesses come together with one common goal of not just growing their own company or sector, but the entire food production industry throughout the region.”
Innovation stemming from Central California’s San Joaquin Valley will continue to be celebrated through the New Product Awards presented by Baker Peterson Franklin CPA, LLP, which has debuted over 125 new products from Valley-based companies since the showcase began in 2013, launching new trends and concepts. Last year’s New Product Award winners Molucca Chocolate (People’s Choice Award Winner – Craft Chocolate Bars) and Top O’ The Morn Farms (Buyer’s Choice Award Winner – Farmstead Sweet Cream Butter) were also in attendance at Sunnyland Mills to help the Fresno Food Expo Management and Board of Directors celebrate the launch of this year’s effort and plans for growth into the future. Other past products entered into the awards range from new packaging for fresh fruits and vegetables to flavor-infused water, wines and craft beer. Applications for the 2016 New Product Awards are available to interested companies now and the deadline for submissions will be July 1, 2016.
Also returning to the expo will be the Fred Ruiz Entrepreneurial Award, a legacy award that was created in 2015 to support the mission of the Fresno Food Expo through mentorship and guidance from the founder behind one of the largest food manufacturing companies in the region. Named in honor of Fred Ruiz, founder of Ruiz Food Products, Inc. and now Fresno Food Expo Board Member, 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. In its inaugural year, Rosa Brothers Milk Company, also in attendance for the announcement at Sunnyland Mills, was named the Fred Ruiz Entrepreneurial Award winner following a remarkable 300 percent growth since launching its glass bottled milk at the 2012 Fresno Food Expo.
Applications for the 2016 Fred Ruiz Entrepreneurial Award are available now and will be due July 1, 2016.
“Through our awards programs, mentorship, educational training and a shared vision for the future for the thriving food industry that exists here, the Expo is connecting companies big and small from different sectors of the industry in an unprecedented way,” said Fred Ruiz, Co-Founder and Chairman Emeritus of Ruiz Foods. “By acting as a resource for the region’s food community, this collaborative initiative deepens the celebration of food production and the personal experience food inspires while promoting increased business growth, connectivity and commerce for the overall region.”
The 2016 Fresno Food Expo will take place July 27-28, 2016 with site tours and an opening reception for pre-registered buyers, followed by a trade show. To commemorate the evolution of the Fresno Food Expo, a new logo and website have also been introduced.
Registration is currently open for buyers and exhibitors. More than 150 exhibitors and 950 key pre-qualified international and domestic buyers are expected to participate. Noted buyers already registered for the 2016 Fresno Food Expo include Whole Foods, Vallarta Supermarkets, Save Mart Supermarkets, Food 4 Less, Tony’s Fine Foods, JD Food, Saladino’s Foodservice and more. Registration forms and additional information is available at www.FresnoFoodExpo.com. Public ticket sales to the “Epicurean Evening” event filled with sampling and discovery will launch in May.