The board of directors of the California Food Expo (formerly the Fresno Food Expo) have elected to dissolve the 501 (c) (6) organization and close its operations effective Jan. 31, citing financial and organizational constraints. In its nine-year lifetime, the Expo created a nucleus of businesses and people who have served as stewards of the San Joaquin Valley and California’s food industry. While the California Food Expo will itself no longer operate, the organization says the efforts it began will continue to serve as a catalyst for future collaborations, the sharing of resources and new business opportunities.
It was established in 2011 as the Fresno Food Expo, an economic development initiative to connect California’s San Joaquin Valley food industry to new business opportunities. In 2018, the Expo expanded its footprint to include companies from throughout the state under the new name, the California Food Expo, holding its first event Sept. 9 -10, 2019. The expansion’s goal was to increase exhibitor participation and help shift the legacy financial model which was primarily dependent upon sponsorships. While the expansion generated new participation, the increase was not enough to sustain operations.
Throughout its run, the Expo says it ignited a food movement, shining a spotlight on food and beverage companies and celebrating the stories behind the brands and products in California’s $71.24 billion food industry. The expo says it helped launch new businesses and brands, showcased industry-leading companies, inspired collaborations and introduced food and packaging innovations. Designed as a business generator for food and beverage companies, and the service providers that support them, the Expo organized nine food industry trade shows which, combined, hosted approximately 430 food and beverage companies and more than 3,500 domestic and international retail and foodservice buyers. Additionally, the Expo created a public event that drew more than 1,000 attendees annually and featured chefs and restaurants utilizing products from the show floor, bringing the food movement full circle to include consumer participation. The Expo’s efforts were documented by trade and consumer media, and its profile was further elevated by the involvement of national food personalities and retail food experts.
“On behalf of the board of directors, we would like to thank all of our supporters who have played a role in making the California Food Expo a marquee food industry event; specifically, the sponsors who provided the financial means to make it possible year after year, and the exhibitors and buyers who believed in it and made it a truly unique event,” said Agnes Saghatelian, chairwoman of the California Food Expo. “We would also like to thank the city of Fresno for its vision and continued support of this private-public partnership that helped lay the foundation for the business community to collaborate, elevate and expand the region’s food industry over its nine-year run. We are grateful to have been a part of this positive effort and we are humbled by the impact it has had on our industry and our community.”
The Expo facilitated the development of business connections, from large food producers mentoring smaller companies, retail buyers guiding unique brands to scale, and service providers sharing packaging and brand enhancement advice to elevate the food industry locally, nationally and internationally. The Expo team provided topical training sessions for participating exhibitors before and during the Expo, building up a resource of tools for exhibitors to enhance their businesses for continued growth. Additionally, the annual award platform touted brands for their taste, presentation and unique story, offering award recipients heightened marketing exposure.
“Because of the Expo, new innovative businesses have emerged. New industry collaborations have been formed. New buyer connections have been made. And a new awareness of our vibrant food production industry has been realized. All of this has driven economic growth that will continue beyond the existence of the Expo,” said Amy Fuentes, director of the California Food Expo. “It has been a truly rewarding experience to lead this effort, which has introduced me to some of the most hard-working, innovative and exceptional people I have ever met, further stirring a passion for our food industry and helping form connections to fuel growth for the companies and the region. I look forward to the ongoing growth as people share their stories behind the businesses and their products and support the restaurants and chefs who bring these fresh and produced foods to life.”
Any exhibitors who registered for 2020 will be refunded their payments by Jan.31. Expo Director Amy Fuentes is available for questions until the Expo’s dissolution and in the months thereafter. She can be reached at [email protected] to answer questions, provide historical data and industry resources as needed. Examples of the resources available to help with the continued guidance and growth of California’s food industry include, but are not limited to:
- Center for International Trade Development, www.fresnocitd.org
Business Expansion & Retention
- Fresno County EDC, www.fresnoedc.com
- City of Fresno Economic Development Department, www.fresno.gov/mayor/economic-development
- California Department of Agriculture, www.cdfa.ca.gov
- California State University, Fresno, www.csufresno.edu
- California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, www.calpoly.edu