By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Crafty Cuisine
Fresno Food Expo showcases industry innovators
fresnofoodexpo 2
Casa de Tamales presents unique pepperoni and chipotle chicken bacon tamales at the Fresno Food Expo preview Wednesday evening.

Last year local dried fruit company Bella Viva submitted dried persimmons, peaches, pears and oranges as part of their new Pure and Natural line at the Fresno Food Expo, an annual convention to honor the local food industry’s leaders in innovation. This year, Bella Viva will be competing for the same honors at the 2014 Expo with their newest product: dried apple slices from the Pure and Natural line which has already been named a top contender.

“Our Pure and Natural product line was inspired by consumer demand for cleaner ways of eating,” said Bella Viva Sales Representative Brean Bettencourt. “Our product line is all-natural dried fruit, so there are absolutely no additives. This not only makes it extremely nutritious and wholesome, but it also makes it ideal for exporting because of the strict sulfur limits abroad.”

Last year Bella Viva’s innovative approach was rewarded as the company received the Industry Award alongside Modesto based company Cold House Vodka for their Cake Batter Vodka. This year the Industry Award is being replaced by the Buyer’s Choice Award which evaluates products on diverse criteria, with innovation and creativity weighing 20 percent, presentation and packaging weighing 30 percent and marketability weighing 50 percent.

This year’s Expo will feature a total of 55 new products submitted from 32 different San Joaquin Valley-based companies ranging from pepperoni tamales and chocolate-covered pistachios to cotton candy wine and sweet potato vodka. A preliminary judging panel rated the products Wednesday evening and once again Bella Viva’s Pure and Natural Apple Slices were selected as one of the top ten products for the Buyer’s Choice Award.

“At this event the judges simply tried our product and now that it’s been selected as a qualifying top ten product, we have a chance to host a presentation and really sell it,” said Bettencourt.

A celebrity judging panel will evaluate each product at 2014 Fresno Food Expo on July 24 at the Fresno Convention and Entertainment Center New Exhibit Hall. The panel consists of three food industry experts including Chef, Restaurateur and Hotelier Erna Kubin-Clanin of The Estate by the Elderberries and Erna’s Elderberry House; Local Sourcing Guru Harv Singh of Whole Foods; and Kroger buyer Matt Jones.

Individuals interested in having a say can also vote for products for the People’s Choice Award. From now until July 24 the public can “like” products on the Fresno Food Expo Facebook Page with each “like” equating a vote. Individuals can also access product descriptions at where they can select the “vote” button which will generate an automated email address – – and individuals can email their votes.