Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Brianna Post and Cameron Cates of CRU Winery pour samples of their wine during the Fresno Food Expo Thursday evening at the Fresno Convention & Entertainment Center.
A record number of people turned out to see a record number of vendors at the newly named California Food Expo (formerly Fresno Food Expo).
The new era featured more than 135 exhibitors to show off newly-created items to1,200 potential customers, buyers and other vendors. The vendors included Madera-based companies Ready Roast Nut Company, Heart Ridge Farms, Rosenthal Ranch Olive Oil, Riley’s Brewing, Cru Winery and Enzo’s Olive Oil.
“We do this every year,” Riley’s brewing owner Dan Riley said. “In the morning, we get some buyers. We have spirits, beer, mixers, cocktails and we’re always going to be packed.”
“For us, we like to make a connection to the grocery people like Whole Foods,” said Enzo Olive Oil’s Vinci Ricchuiti. “We want to reach out across the Valley and let people know what we’re producing.”
More than 650 regional, national and international buyers attended the eighth-year event held at the Fresno Convention Exhibit Hall on Thursday.
“Our production value in both fresh and manufactured products, our innovation and our diversity make California a food powerhouse,” said Amy Fuentes, manager of the California Food Expo. “The expo’s vision to incorporate all of California enables us to harness the state’s thriving food industry and connect buyers to authentic California brands.”
Each year, the expo presents new product awards. For the second straight year, Enzo’s Olive Oil received the best new product award. Last year, it was their Fresno Chili Olive Oil. This year, it was their Enzo’s Table Peach Jam. Enzo’s was also the recipient of the Fred Ruiz Entrepreneurial Award.
“Our peach jam showcases the beauty of California — when a farmer from Clovis can connect with an award-winning chef in Los Angeles like Jessica Koslow from Sqirl — it’s an incredibly humbling feeling,” said Vincent Ricchuiti, founder of ENZO Olive Oil. “Receiving this award provides an elevated exposure that will help us to drive demand for this product, which will be exclusively sold through our retail and online store.”
“It is very humbling, but it is very rewarding that hard work does pay off,” Vinci Ricchiuti said. “It’s nice to bring recognition to the valley. It’s important to bring the credit back to the farmers and the producers that feed this great world.”
For Riley, his company was seen throughout the expo. In addition to his booth serving beer, he had another serving cocktails and spirits and his brewpub serving pulled pork sandwiches.
“The Fresno Food Expo is a good reinforcement,” he said. “We meet a lot of people here. I don’t know if this one event seals the deal. This introduces you to people in the area.”
Riley says his company continues to grow and there isn’t an end in sight.
“We have been doing fantastic.” He said. “We’ve grown. There’s no end in sight. We’re in a lot of major chains. We just keep growing stretching out our area. Of all the beer we sell, we move 50,000 bottles of beer a month, and people still say they’ve never heard of Riley’s.”
For Ricchiuti, showing at the California Food Expo is a way to make new customers and show the old customers the products they have.
“We’ve been very blessed to get great positive feedback,” she said. “Events like this bring a lot of attention and brings in new customers. We also get to see our old customers who see what new things we bring to the table.”
In addition to being in many places around the valley, Enzo’s Olive Oil can be found at its own shop — Enzo’s Table — at the southeast corner of Willow and Shepherd.
“Our local patrons have been very loyal to us. It’s been very satisfying and gratifying,” Ricchiuti said.