Inaugural Fresno Food Expo Aims to Create Connections and Increase Business for the Valley’s Food Industry 

The City of Fresno in partnership with the Fresno Food Expo Advisory Committee, MJR Creative Group, Cohen Communications and David Nalchajian, Inc. officially launched the inaugural Fresno Food Expo today, which will take place on Friday, March 11, 2011 at The Grand in Downtown Fresno. The Fresno Food Expo will be an exclusive event that will offer an opportunity for the Central San Joaquin Valley’s finest food growers, manufacturers, processors, producers, brewers and winemakers to exhibit their products to national and local retail buyers, restaurants and chefs.

The Fresno Food Expo kicks off with the closed trade portion of the event from 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. where buyers can explore the various vendor booths, seeking out new product offers and making business connections. Beginning at 5:00 p.m. a public reception will be held where individuals will have the opportunity to see and taste a wide range of local foods and beverages. Tickets must be purchased in advance to attend and cost is $40 per person.

“The Fresno Food Expo is all about exposure to businesses in the food industry, to buyers and to the community-at-large,” said Bill Smittcamp, President & CEO, Wawona Frozen Foods, Advisory Committee member and a Founding Sponsor of the event. “The Fresno Food Expo provides the perfect platform to bring attention to the wide array of food products here in the Central San Joaquin Region. Businesses can showcase their products grown and processed here, and establish or expand key connections with retail buyers, local restaurants, chefs and more.”

The Fresno Food Expo was developed as a component of the City of Fresno’s economic development strategy to find innovative ways to help local companies grow and succeed. The food industry is one of Fresno’s largest export oriented industries, which Mayor Swearengin has placed a special focus on as one of Fresno’s “key industries” because export oriented businesses not only keep wealth in the Fresno area, but bring in new dollars with exporting their product.

“The Fresno Food Expo is a defining step in our economic development strategy,” stated Mayor Swearengin. “The premise of this event is to connect our local food production industry with retail buyers from all over California and provide a venue for our local companies to get more of their food product on shelves, in restaurants and en route through distribution channels in California and beyond. The Fresno Food Expo is a prime example of how we are using our resources to connect one of our largest local industries to even bigger opportunities.”

The Central San Joaquin Valley is internationally known as one of the world’s most productive and distinctive agricultural regions, and is home to hundreds of food producers, growers, manufacturers, processors, winemakers and brewers reflecting its rich diversity. In 2009, Fresno County had an agricultural production of $5.37 billion alone. That total combined with Tulare, Kings and Madera County, puts the agricultural production in the Central San Joaquin Valley at $11.68 billion for 2009. According to Fresno County’s 2010 Economic Development Report, it is estimated that with an economic multiplier of 3.5 resulting from, “expanding the types of value-added finished goods and increasing the integration of the field production, processing, packaging, research and development, and marketing sectors of the agriculture value-chain,” the overall food industry in the Central San Joaquin Valley generated approximately $41 billion in 2009.
The Fresno Food Expo was in part modeled after another well-known and successful show in San Francisco, the Fancy Food Show, which draws over 40,000 attendees from more than 80 countries. In developing plans for Fresno’s regional food expo, the City of Fresno also brought in local business owners who are experts in the food production industry and attend similar food shows every year in other markets to serve on an Advisory Committee. Those local business owners are:
 Apple Valley Farms, Durbin Breckenidge
 Certified Meat Products, Mark Ford
 Fowler Packing, Leland Parnagian
 Bouquet of Fruits, Stephen Paul
 La Tapatia, Dan Solano
 OK Produce, Brady Matoian
 P-R Farms, Pat Ricchiuti
 Pappy’s Fine Foods, Eddie Papulias
 Wawona Frozen Foods, Bill Smittcamp

“The Advisory Committee has been key in developing the Fresno Food Expo over the past eight months,” stated Craig Scharton, Director of the Downtown and Community Revitalization Department, “These business owners bring industry experience to the table and they know what attracts buyers to these kinds of events; the collaboration with this committee of industry players has been a vital component to building a strong foundation for our first year.”

Not only is the Fresno Food Expo focused on current food industry professionals, but also the future of the industry. The Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences & Technology from Fresno State will bring its Western Collegiate Food Marketing Competition to the Fresno Food Expo. The competition, which will bring students from all over the Western United States together in a competition that challenges students to put together a short sales/marketing pitch of a new, innovative, marketing idea about a food product, service, food ingredient, food packaging or other attributes associated with food marketing. The live “Pecha Kucha” portion of the competition will take place at 5:00 p.m. on the 10th Floor of The Grand during the public portion of the event. Additionally, students will have an exclusive opportunity to observe the closed buyer portion of the expo, experiencing first hand the various roles they could take on in their future food industry careers.

Vendors, buyers and attendees are directed to for information on how to participate. Tickets for the public reception will go on sale in January 2011. To receive updates on the Fresno Food Expo, including when tickets go on sale, please sign up at the website to receive upcoming newsletters and announcements.