The 2015 Fresno Food Expo, presented by Union Bank, celebrated its fifth anniversary on Thursday, July 23 when 121 food and beverage companies ranging from producers and growers to manufacturers and processors from throughout the eight-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 percent growth in the number of participating exhibitors and a 400 percent growth in buyers since the Expo first began in 2011.
“The Fresno Food Expo that started as a local economic development initiative in 2011 with 65 food and beverage companies and 198 buyers has evolved into an undeniable 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, increasing exposure to broaden their market all leading to increased sales opportunities, while also giving our local food industry a new unified voice that is being noticed in a big way 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, 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 as 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.
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.
New to the Fresno Food Expo this year, the Fred Ruiz Entrepreneurial Award was created to honor a Valley-based food processing company which 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 of Tulare, a family-owned operation whose business has grown 300 percent 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 the 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.”