Bethany Clough

Try chicken chipotle burritos and other eats at the food expo in Fresno. Here’s how

Fresno Food Expo showcases best food and drink in the state

The 8th Annual Fresno Food Expo puts on a showcase of around 135 vendors, putting out the newest and best in food products from throughout the state at the Fresno Convention Center.
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The 8th Annual Fresno Food Expo puts on a showcase of around 135 vendors, putting out the newest and best in food products from throughout the state at the Fresno Convention Center.

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Chickpea granola. Vegan mayo. Organic pistachio protein bars.

All of these things will be available for tasting in Fresno at the California Food Expo next week at the Fresno Convention & Entertainment Center.

The show, in its ninth year, has more of an earthy crunchy vibe this time around. It’s all part of the trends happening in the California food industry right now, and the event’s expansion to a statewide show.

At the Expolicious event, the public can sample that chickpea granola, along with chicken chipotle burritos, extra-spicy salsa, vodka made from day-old baked goods and other food from about 140 companies. People can also buy the products displayed.

That public portion of the show happens from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 10. Tickets cost $60 and usually sell out.

The public can also sample creations from some of the city’s top chefs. Chefs from Fresno restaurants The Annex Kitchen, Max’s Bistro and Cracked Pepper Bistro and three chefs from elsewhere in California will compete to create the most tasty dish.

The competition will be judged by Simon Majumdar, a food and travel writer and TV personality who often pops up in Fresno.

The business-to-business portion of the trade show starts Monday, Sept. 9, with a day of educational sessions for exhibitors and buyers. During a private session on Tuesday, food makers show off their products to 750 stores and other buyers who may end up carrying their products on their shelves.

New foods

This year there are 55 new foods competing for the New Product award.

They include food made in the Fresno area, like smoked-jalapeño cheddar sausage, packs of PAW Patrol-themed grapes, and double chocolate milk. Gluten-free sweet potato pies, peach kombucha (a fermented tea), and black currant organic, Russian-style ice cream are also competing, made by companies across California.

The public can weigh in on another award without even going to the show. Each company has submitted one product for The Golden State Award. You can vote by liking a product on the Facebook and Instagram (voting ends at 5 p.m. Sunday).

Healthy trends

There’s a lot of products this year that are trendy or healthy, including nut milks, vegan food, keto-diet friendly cookies and probiotic-filled drinks like elderberry-ginger lemonade from the Fermenting Fairy in Santa Monica.

About 140 exhibitors are participating, roughly the same as last year, but the diversity of products has changed. That’s due to the expo expanding in 2018 from a San Joaquin Valley show to include food makers from throughout the state. At that show, organizers announced it was changing its name to the California Food Expo.

“I feel like it’s a really good reflection of the trends happening in California right now,” said expo manager Amy Fuentes. “California nationally leads the food industry in terms of … trends and what consumers want.”

The change has brought in some new buyers, like school districts looking for healthy products and independent boutiques looking for California-themed food. Regulars like Walmart, Whole Foods and international buyers will also be there.

Of course, the expo will still have plenty of the Valley’s bread and butter: Stone fruit, nuts, wine, meat and Hispanic foods. Even those companies are evolving with the trends, making products like nut butter and raw versions of cheese.

Ticket information: Tickets for Expolicious are available online and at the convention center box office at 700 M St. If the event does not sell out, tickets will be available at the convention center’s ticket windows at 848 M St. beginning at 3 p.m. Tuesday.

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Bethany Clough covers restaurants and retail for The Fresno Bee. A reporter for 20 years, she now works to answer readers’ questions about business openings, closings and other business news. She has a degree in journalism from Syracuse University and her last name is pronounced Cluff.
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