Business

Fresno Food Expo branches out as nonprofit organization

In July 2015, the fifth annual Fresno Food Expo at the Fresno Convention Center set a record for number of buyers (914) and drew 122 exhibitors, both making it the largest regional food show in the nation.
In July 2015, the fifth annual Fresno Food Expo at the Fresno Convention Center set a record for number of buyers (914) and drew 122 exhibitors, both making it the largest regional food show in the nation. Fresno Bee file

The Fresno Food Expo, the nation’s leading regional food show, is kicking off its sixth year with a new logo, a 13-member board and a new status.

Launched humbly in 2011 as a way to boost economic development, the event has evolved into a major gathering for food makers and buyers. As part of that growth, the city-created expo is becoming it’s own nonprofit organization.

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, who helped create the expo, said the plan all along was to incubate the show until it was able to survive on its own and continue to grow.

“It is exciting to be at this point here today,” said Swearengin, who gathered with the members of the new board Monday at Sunnyland Mills in southeast Fresno.

As its own organization, the show will be managed by David Nalchajian Inc. and its staff that now includes Amy Huerta Fuentes, a former city employee who helped manage the expo as part of Swearengin’s staff.

A 13-member board also was selected that includes a who’s who of the region’s food makers, including Agnes Saghatelian Wilson, president of Valley Lahvosh Baking Company, Fred Ruiz, co-founder of Ruiz Foods, Bill Smittcamp, president of Wawona Frozen Foods and Helen Chavez-Hansen, president of La Tapatia Tortilleria.

Swearengin, who will serve as chairwoman of the board, said the new board will provide the necessary direction on how the expo will grow.

“I am confident in the future success of the Fresno Food Expo and the growth of locally owned businesses and the increase in appreciation of the incredible foods that we produce in our region,” she said. “That’s what we set out to accomplish.”

This year’s expo will be held at the Fresno Convention Center’s Exhibit Hall on July 27-28. Registration is open for buyers and exhibitors.

David Nalchajian, who is the expo’s general manager, said this year’s show is expected to attract nearly 1,000 buyers representing local, regional, national and international companies. And about half of the space for the expected 150 exhibitors already is taken.

Also new this year is a logo and website that spotlights the word “food” in the design.

The expo also is pushing to attract more chefs and wineries to the event. Nalchajian said a celebrity chef from the Food Network will be participating with the expo this year, but that announcement won’t be made for a few weeks.

“We are excited to build upon our success as a show and we look forward to further capitalizing on industry successes in every category to increase awareness of our food production industry and celebrate its quality, its diversity, its uniqueness and its value on both a national and international scale,” Nalchajian said.

Robert Rodriguez: 559-441-6327, @FresnoBeeBob

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