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Fresno Food Expo spotlights San Joaquin Valley food producers

FRESNO, CA — In its third year, the Fresno Food Expo, held here March 14, attracted 643 buyers who came to see 125 exhibitors of food products, including over 30 fresh produce suppliers.

Next year the show should expand to more than 300 exhibitors by pursuing fresh produce companies and moving the 2014 expo date to July.

"We wanted to highlight the many food products coming out of the San Joaquin Valley for the first three yearsFowlerFowler Packing, a major sponsor of the Fresno Food Expo, was represented at the show by Vince Cambero, Tracy Stacy, Randy Parnagian, Julie Rush, Kevin Souza and Angela Hernandez. (Photo by Ed Boling), since the valley is already well known for its fresh produce," said Craig Scharton, downtown and community revitalization director.

Moving the show to July will help the expo accommodate the fresh produce growers and packers in the San Joaquin Valley, which accounted for an economic effect of $105.8 billion in 2011.

Many agricultural and produce companies are already on-board with the Fresno Food Expo. Major sponsors of the event included the California Raisin Marketing Board, AgLink.com, Cuties-Fowler Packing, Prima-Gerawan Farming, Grimmway Farms, Homegrown Organic Farms, National Raisin Co., Sinclair Systems and SunMaid Raisins.

Fresh produce exhibitors expressed excitement about the proximity of the show to their home bases and the draw of top-level buyers from regional and national companies.

Jon McClarty of HMC Farms in Kingsburg, CA, said that he was happy to see many foodservice buyers at the show, where he displayed HMC's Grape Escape packaged grapes.

John Zaninovich of Vincent B. Zaninovich & Sons said that the turnout of national retail buyers was very good. He estimated that the number of retail buyers doubled from last year.

In addition to the fresh produce draw of the Fresno Food Expo, new products also grabbed the attention of buyers. Thirty-two companies introduced 55 new products.

Setton Farms used the Fresno Food Expo to highlight Chewy Bites, a new, all-natural snack product. Mia Cohen, chief operating officer of Setton, said that Chewy Bites are a mixture of pistachios, cranberries and agave nectar.

Additional exposure was created for new products through a People's Choice contest during the public portion of the show.

Several produce companies enjoyed plenty of love from the public portion of the Fresno Food Expo.

Finger Limes from Phillips Farms Marketing in Exeter, CA, took sixth place in the competition. Nature's Joy introduced 100-calorie pistachio snack packs, which garnered attention for The Industry Award and the People's Choice award. Juicy Gems from Trinity Fruit Sales in Fresno also grabbed consumer attention. Consumers also liked flavored microwaveable petite carrots from Grimmway Farms in Bakersfield, CA.