Food & Drink

Changes at Fresno Food Expo bring big breweries, chocolate and lots of avocados

Expect big changes at the Fresno Food Expo this year, as organizers open up the highly successful food trade event to vendors from the entire state.

This summer you will see some well-known names in the food and beverage industry, including Lagunitas Brewing Company, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and Burroughs Family Farms, a fifth-generation company from Denair that makes everything from organic small-batch whole milk to extra-virgin organic olive oil.

The one-day expo is July 26 at the Fresno Convention Center.

Amy Fuentes, Fresno Food Expo manager, said that while the event began as a way to showcase Fresno's established and start-up food makers, it has been approached many times by vendors from outside the area.

So the expo's board decided to open the show to the entire state, in hopes of attracting entrepreneurs from outside the area in addition to more retailers.

"Fresno is a prime location for doing this and really there is no one else doing a California-only food show," Fuentes said. "We will always be the nucleus, but there is a much bigger story to tell about California."

Already, the expo has attracted about a dozen new vendors, including makers of premium chocolate, Hispanic snack foods, nut butter, duck eggs and one of the state's pioneering avocado growers, Henry Avocado of Escondido.

Fuentes estimated there will be about 150 exhibitors, but added that within the next three to five years it could grow to 300. She also hoped that as larger, more-established exhibitors come to the expo, so will the retailers.

The Fresno Food Expo returns to the Convention Center on July 26, 2018. CRAIG KOHLRUSS Fresno Bee Staff Photo

Also new this year is the creation a California Retail Advisory Committee to gain insight and trends of retailers and food service buyers.

"You need those big brand names to get the buyers here, that way everyone wins," she said. "Sometimes a big retailer like Costco may not know very much about the smaller up-and-coming companies and that's why it is good to have a mix of large and small businesses."

One of those smaller business that is hoping to be seen is Olinday Farms of Monterey County. The new company, an offshoot of Metzer Farms, a family owned hatchery, sells duck eggs to the food service and restaurant industry.

Marc Metzer, general manager of Olinday, said the Fresno Food Expo will mark the company's debut.

"We are really excited about this," he said. "We see duck eggs growing in popularity and we want to be able to supply them to chefs and anyone else who wants to cook and bake with them."