The 2016 Fresno Food Expo debuted 33 innovative new products, varietals and packaging concepts that were entered into the New Product Awards from 28 different Central California businesses. Now in its fourth year, the New Product Awards, presented by Baker Peterson Franklin CPA, LLP, have become a strategic opportunity for participating businesses to launch new products. This year’s products range from freeze-dried organic fruits and craft beers made with locally grown ingredients to infused olive oils, craft chocolate, gourmet nuts and nut butters, healthy snacks and everything in between, even all natural dog treats, which showcase the diversity of quality foods and beverages made in Central California.

All products entered into the New Product Awards are competing for the coveted Buyer’s Choice and People’s Choice Awards. To determine the Buyer’s Choice Award winner, all 33 products were reviewed, ranked and narrowed down to 10 finalists by a panel of marketing and food industry leaders at the New Product Awards Preview event, “Taste, Tally & Tweet,” on July 13, 2016. These 10 products will now advance to the Celebrity Judging Panel, in which judging will take place during the Fresno Food Expo on July 28, 2016, and is comprised of professionals from retail, restaurant, foodservice and packaging industries including: world-renowned Chef Erna Kubin-Clanin, owner of 5-star Erna’s Elderberry House and Chateau du Sureau; Sales Manager for United Natural Foods Inc., Allan Grice; Direct Store Delivery Receiving Manager and Local Marketing Lead of Albertsons-Safeway Northern California Division, Sean Topping; and Division Manager at leading custom packaging solutions company Landsberg Orora, Jim Jarosz.

“This year’s celebrity judging panel brings various perspectives on what foods, beverages and even more so, ingredients are driving consumer buying trends,” said Amy Fuentes, Manager of the Fresno Food Expo. “These individuals understand the innovation and creativity required for a new product to be successful in such a competitive industry.”

The Buyer’s Choice Award will be announced during the Fresno Food Expo tradeshow on July 28, 2016 at 12:00 p.m. The following companies are finalists in the Buyer’s Choice Award category: Califresh Sarah's Harvest-Fresh Green Chickpea Hummus, ENZO Olive Oil ENZO Organic Clementine Crush, Lanna Coffee Co Lanna Cold Brew, Molucca Chocolate Inclusions Craft Chocolate Bars, P*DE*Q P*DE*Q Pre Baked, Poindexter Nut Company Crazy Go Nuts Flavored Walnuts, RPE Produce, Inc. Tasteful Selections Season & Savor Potatoes, Rosa Brothers Milk Company Single Use Glass Milk Bottles, SnackMasters Aubrey's Jerky and Tioga-Sequoia Brewing Company 99 Golden Ale.

Last year, Top O’ The Morn Farm’s Farmstead Sweet Cream Butter was awarded the “Buyer’s Choice Award,” with Traina Foods Sriracha Sun Dried Tomato Ketchup landing in 2nd and Busseto Foods Natural Salami Snack Cups in 3rd. These winners have experienced significant achievements since their participation in the New Product Awards from retail premium shelf placement to large box store and even home delivery contracts, as well as an increase in bulk orders.

“We’re honored to have received the Buyer’s Choice Award from a panel of industry experts,” said Ron Locke, Co-owner of Top O’ The Morn Farms. “This type of interaction with representatives from the retail, packaging and restaurant sectors in an intimate setting is something you don’t get anywhere else. Because the Fresno Food Expo is a credible show, the award brought heightened attention to our company and products.” The other coveted award is the People’s Choice Award, which is entirely determined by the public through online voting. The People’s Choice Award allows the public to share their thoughts as a consumer, voicing their opinion on what products stand out from others in the marketplace. It also is a great opportunity for the companies who submitted new products to get real-time consumer feedback. To vote for your favorite new product, visit the Fresno Food Expo’s website or Facebook page. Votes are counted by the number of “Likes” each product receives on Facebook, combined with all votes cast via email through the Fresno Food Expo website. Voting is officially open as of today and continues until 3 PM on July 28, 2016. The winner of the People’s Choice Award will be announced that night during Expolicious.

Approximately, 3,800 votes were cast last year during the three-week People’s Choice Award voting period, resulting in Molucca Chocolate being crowned as the 2015 People’s Choice Award winner for their Craft Chocolate Bars. The attention garnered through the People’s Choice Award boosted product awareness online while adding promotional value and marketplace energy to not just Molucca Chocolate, but all participating companies of the Fresno Food Expo. One of the most agriculturally rich and diverse regions in the world, Central California has become a namesake for innovation in the food industry with its proximity to fresh products and access to international markets.