Expo dissolves operations as financial and organizational constraints prove challenging
Fresno, California – January 8, 2020 The Board of Directors of the California Food Expo (formerly the Fresno Food Expo) announced today that they have elected to dissolve the 501 (c) (6) organization and close its operations effective January 31, 2020, citing financial and organizational constraints. In its nine-year lifetime, the Expo created a nucleus of businesses and individuals who have served as stewards of the San Joaquin Valley and California’s rich food industry. While the California Food Expo will itself no longer operate, the efforts it began will continue to serve as a catalyst for future collaborations, the sharing of resources, and new business opportunities.
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, the Expo experienced both organic and planned growth. In 2018, the Expo announced an expanded footprint to include companies from throughout the state under the new name, the California Food Expo, holding its first event on September 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 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. 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 successfully organized nine food industry trade shows which, combined, hosted approximately 430 food and beverage companies and over 3,500 domestic and international retail and foodservice buyers. Additionally, the Expo created a coveted public event that drew over 1,000 attendees annually and featured top 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 meaningful 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 exhibitors needed 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 January 31, 2020. Expo Director, Amy Fuentes, is available for questions until the Expo’s dissolution on January 31, 2020, and in the months thereafter. Amy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org to answer questions, provide historical data and valuable 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:
o Center for International Trade Development, www.fresnocitd.org
- Business Expansion & Retention
o Fresno County EDC, www.fresnoedc.com
o City of Fresno Economic Development Department, www.fresno.gov/mayor/economic-
- Grant Opportunities
o 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
About The California Food Expo
The California Food Expo empowered California food and beverage companies through the facilitation of business relationships, connection of industry peers and elevation of the California food brand around the world. The California Food Expo evolved from the Fresno Food Expo in 2018, as the show expanded to include all of California’s fresh and produced food and beverage products. The Expo is a 501 (c) (6) organization that is governed by a 13-member Board of Directors comprised of presidents and CEOs from leading California food industry companies. Additionally, a Retail Advisory Council made up of buyers, merchandisers and executives representing grocery retailers who make it a priority to sell and promote local California products, worked in partnership with the Expo’s Board providing insight and guidance. Daily operations of the Expo were overseen by Amy Fuentes and David Nalchajian, Inc., with support from professional firms MJR Creative, MEZA Films and Cohen Communications. International buyer connections were supported through a partnership with the State Center Community College District’s Center for International Trade Development (CITD).
A Look Back at Key Event Milestones:
- March 11, 2011
o Inaugural Fresno Food Expo hosted at The Grand in downtown Fresno.
o 65 exhibitors, 190 buyers and 476 public tickets sold.
- March 8, 2012
o The Fresno Food Expo moved its location to the Fresno Convention Center.
o 84 exhibitors, 419 buyers and 650 public tickets sold.
- March 14, 2013
o Union Bank signed on as the presenting sponsor, with a $225K sponsorship over three years.
o The Center for International Trade Development participated for the first time, bringing over 25 international buyers to host one-on-one meetings with exhibiting companies.
o The New Product Awards were launched with 55 new products.
o 106 exhibitors, 626 buyers and 1,101 public tickets sold.
- July 24, 2014
o The Expo moved the trade show date to the end of July when more commodities would be readily available.
o Local chefs participated for the first time in the VIP Sponsor and Buyer event, integrating local products into the dishes they prepared.
o 126 exhibitors, 702 buyers and 1,043 public tickets sold.
- July 23, 2015
o Site tours of local businesses were offered to attending buyers the day prior to the Expo.
o The Expo launched the Fred Ruiz Entrepreneurial Award.
o 121 exhibitors, 914 buyers and 1,161 public tickets sold.
- July 28, 2016
o The Expo introduced “Pairings,” a re-branding of the VIP event which hosted chefs from around the Valley preparing dishes with sponsor products.
o The Expo rebranded its public event to “Expolicious,” and incorporated local chefs.
o Food Network personality, Simon Majumdar, participated in the Expo for the first time and hosted the first annual Restaurant Awards during the public event. Simon continued to support and promote the Expo through 2019.
o 132 exhibitors, 922 buyers and 946 public tickets sold.
- July 27, 2017
o The Expo hosted Phil Lempert, the Supermarket Guru, for its first annual keynote speaker event the day prior to the Expo. Phil continued to serve as an advisor and moderator through 2019.
o 128 exhibitors, 601 buyers and 1,175 public tickets sold.
- July 26, 2018
o The Expo announced its official transition to the California Food Expo.
o The Expo announced its new Retail Advisory Committee with 7 retail members.
o 120 exhibitors, 548 buyers and 1,269 public tickets sold.
- September 9–10, 2019
o The Expo transitioned the trade show date to the beginning of September.
o The Expo launched the Golden State Award.
o The Expo hosted five educational sessions for attendees the day prior to the Expo.
o The Expo hosted the inaugural Taste of California chef competition.
o 125 exhibitors, 520 buyers and 870 public tickets sold.