FRESNO, Calif. — The Fresno Food Expo will feature San Joaquin Valley items, including fresh fruits and vegetables, but the show is targeting a buyer base that extends far beyond the city limits.

“We are making a concerted, intentional effort to bring in international buyers,” said Amy Huerta, local business initiatives manager for the city of Fresno, about the March 14 event.

Since the inaugural expo in 2011, the number of exhibitors has grown by nearly 70%, attracting a retail and foodservice buying presence that has more than tripled. Huerta said organizers expect 550 buyers at the 2013 expo.

Admission is free for buyers, but they should register in advance at

Fresno Food Expo expands international focusVisiting buyers can take tours of nearby orchards, vineyards, citrus groves and processing plants “right in our own backyard,” Huerta said. Fresh produce shares the expo spotlight with value-added and processed foods. About a third of the exhibitors will be displaying fresh produce, Huerta said.

“By dollar value, 69% of California commodities are grown in the San Joaquin Valley, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture,” she said. “The expo provides the opportunity for foreign and domestic buyers to see and learn more about all of those commodities at one site.”

The 2011 expo featured products from four Central California counties; the expo has now been expanded to eight counties, from Bakersfield in the south to Stockton in the north.

California produce exhibitors registered for Fresno Food Expo 2013 include:

  • Baloian Produce, Fresno;
  • Country Sweet Produce, Bakersfield;
  • Gerawan Farming, Sanger;
  • Grimmway Farms, Bakersfield;
  • HMC Farms, Kingsburg;
  • Homegrown Organic Produce, Porterville;
  • Kern Ridge Growers, Arvin;
  • Morada Produce, Stockton.
  • OK Produce, Fresno;
  • Phillips Farms, Visalia;
  • Simonian Fruit Co., Fowler;
  • Trinity Fruit Sales, Fresno; and
  • Zinke Orchards, Chowchilla.

Fresh produce offerings are expected to more than double next year, Huerta said. She said plans on the drawing board will enable more growers to exhibit in-season fresh produce.

During the event, an industry award for innovation, marketability and creativity, and the Fresno Food Expo People’s Choice award will be announced. To enter, exhibitors must register on the website and complete new product applications by Feb. 15.

“A lot of innovation comes out of fresh produce, it’s always very exciting,” Huerta said. “It (the award) really is a center stage for growers to bring their new varietals, to have the Expo be a launch pad.”

The Fresno Food Expo, brainchild of Mayor Ashley Swearengin, was conceived as an economic development tool, Huerta said. A byproduct, she said, is that the expo has become a regional consumer awareness project.

“Food is something the region can be excited about, proud of, identify with,” Huerta said.