Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Maderans from left, Nicki Rincon, Dr. Jim Chin and Toni Jordan get a sample from former Maderan Doralie Utecht of Simoinian Fruit Company.
FRESNO — More than 1,100 people converged to the Fresno Convention Center’s Exhibit Hall to view more than 140 exhibits at the seventh annual Fresno Food Expo, the largest regional food show in the nation.
Among the 140 exhibitors were 11 from the Madera area, including ENZO Olive Oil Company, which won two awards at the Expo.
“The expo is all about listening to the needs of our exhibitors and making meaningful connections to grow their businesses, expand collaborations and draw focus to celebrate Central California’s thriving food industry,” said David Nalchajian, general manager, Fresno Food Expo. “The synergy experienced this year among exhibiting companies is unlike what we’ve seen before. You’ve heard the reference ‘the seven year itch.’ In the case of the Fresno Food Expo, our seventh year has unleashed opportunity for year-round enrichment for our exhibitors where they’ve been able to immediately utilize tools and put them to work as part of overall growth strategies. The regional food industry, national and international buyers and the public are coming together at an entirely different level, which is both exciting and humbling.”
ENZO, which has a store in Clovis, but grows its olives in Madera County, won the Fred Ruiz Entrepreneurial Award, which honors an innovative Valley-based food or beverage company that demonstrates exemplary leadership and an entrepreneurial spirit, all while being an exceptional community steward. Named in honor of Fred Ruiz, founder of Ruiz Food Products, Inc., this award recognizes companies who have the same vision and qualities that took Ruiz Foods from a small, family start-up to the largest frozen Mexican food manufacturer in the United States. In addition to the award, ENZO will also receive advice and mentoring for a year from Ruiz and a team of food industry professionals.
“Anytime you can win an award with Fred Ruiz’s name attached is an honor and humbling at the same time,” said ENZO co-owner Vincent Ricchuitti. “One of the thing that resonated with him is our energy and our passion. The fact that we’re a family company and have been farming in Madera a long time. We re-invented part of our business to take on this venture. He recognized the challenge in that and saw the passion our family had for this venture.”
ENZO Olive Oil’s Fresno Chili Crush also took second place in the New Product Awards Buyer’s Choice Awards.
“The Fresno Chili Crush is one of our most well-received items we have ever made,” Ricchiuti said. “It’s an exciting night.”
Contact: Mallvinder Kahal, co-founder
Featuring: We’re showcasing our No. 1 product, our Better (almond) Butter. We’re sampling it with bananas and apples to show its versatility. But, we’re also showing the product on its own to show how rich it is.
What has been the response: Taste-wise, everything has been positive, which has boosted our confidence in the product. We’re really happy with the feedback on the product.
Where can people buy your product: Right now, our most successful spot to find us is on Amazon: Kahal Better Butter. We’re working on the local retailers to try to convince them that our product is something they want to carry. This Expo has also showed us how to approach distributors and retailers. We discovered a whole new slew of challenges, but at least we know what the challenges are versus walking in the dark.
Heart Ridge Farms
Contact: Steve Spears, national salesperson
Featuring: We’re pushing our line of seasoned almonds. We grow our own almonds. We have our own European dry roast process for almonds. We have various flavors.
What has been the response: The response from vendors, retailers and buyers has been very favorable. We’re somewhat new as far as having a focus, a more retail business.
Where can people buy your product: We are in the local Von’s stores and various brick-and-mortor stores. In 30-60 days, we will be in the more independent stores from Bakersfield to Stockton and Save Mart.
Contact: Alexis Sosa-Valentine, tasting room and wine club manager
Featuring: We’re showcasing our pinot noir and chardonney.
What has been the
response: Everyone loves the wine. They were both big winners at the San Francisco wine competition and big winners at the Expo today.
Where can people buy your product: We are located on Road 21 and Road 21 1/2. Our wine is also at BevMo, Save Mart, Von’s and Total Wine.
Wonderful Agricultural Management
Contact: Wayne Koligian, director of grower relations
Featuring: We are showing people our product and highlighting it. We tell people we manage and develop the land that goes from the farmer to the grocery store shelves.
What has been the response: They really like what we’ve shown. I brought 20 cases of pomegranate juice and it’s already gone. I brought 10 cases of Fiji water and it’s gone. I brought 18 cases of Wonderful Almonds and it’s already gone. We own a total of 30 businesses.
Contact: Dan Riley, owner
Featuring: We’re showing off our Sancha, Cougar, Catching up IPA, California Mike Stout, two seasonals — mango sancha and Hammered. We have our gin, vodka, hard root beer, hard vanilla, hard orange and hard ginger. That’s all we brought.
What has been the response: Very good. People are enjoying it. It’s a win-win. People like it.
Where can people buy your product: We’re in Food Maxx and Save mart. We have our Riley’s Brew Pub on Temperance and Alluvial.
Rosenthal Olive Ranch
Contact: Kevin Rosenthal, owner.
Featuring: We’re showing off all of our flavored olive oils, our extra virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegar.
What has been the response: We’ve gotten an overwhelming response over everything, especially our garlic olive oil.
Where can people buy your product: We are at The Market at Herndon and West, Sumner Peck Fruit Stand and they also use it exclusively at The Vineyard Restaurant and our ranch, Avenue 9 between Road 29 and 29 1/2.
San Joaquin Wine Company
Featuring: All of the wines available.
Sierra Valley Almonds
Contact: Kurt Friedenbach, sales and marketing
Featuring: We are featuring our new blanche line and flour. Blanche is where you take the almonds and take the skins off. They use it for confectionery.
What has been the response: We mainly serve the industry rather than retail. Today is mainly about some buyers that come into Fresno.
ENZO Olive Oil Company
Contact: Vincent Ricchuiti, co-owner
Featuring: We’re featuring our entire line.
What has been the response: The Fresno Chili Crush really wows everyone. It’s really versatile. It may be the only Fresno chili olive oil made.
Where can people buy your product: We have our own store in Clovis (Shepherd and Willow), Save Mart, Von’s, Sierra Nut House, Sam’s Deli and a lot of places.
Contact: Jason Barnett, owner
Featuring: Our seasoned tri-tips that are in the grocery store, as well as our deli and grocery store in Oakhurst. We did 2,000 samples last year. It went great. We were way too busy to do it this week.
What has been the response: We had them hooked and sold it. Now they are furious. The problem was getting down here for the show. We’ve been so busy, it’s ridiculous.
Where can people buy your product: Two Von’s in Clovis, two Von’s in Fresno, Pack-N-Save in Madera, Von’s in Oakhurst as well as our deli in Oakhurst.