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Hilmar-made product named Buyers Choice at food expo
food expo pic
New product Buyers Choice Award winner Aubrey Lim, founder of Aubreys Jerky, with SnackMasters Jerky. - photo by Photo Contributed

While Hilmar is most famous for its cheese, another agricultural entrepreneur captured the glory during this year’s Fresno Food Expo.

Aubrey’s Jerky took home the Buyer’s Choice Award at the sixth annual Fresno Food Expo, beating out 33 products ranging from all-natural dog treats to infused olive oils.

The Fresno Food Expo is an annual event that brings together growers, processors, manufacturers and industry service providers with buyers from around the world.

Aubrey Lim, a current student attending California State University, Fresno and creator of Aubrey’s Jerky, has taken the tasty snack food to a whole new level.

Made with real beef hearts, Aubrey’s Jerky offers a unique flavor and texture that creates flavorful jerky that is never tough or dry.

After working with SnackMasters Gourmet Jerky during a spring internship, Lim decided to branch out and make her own version of the meaty snack.

“I first connected with SnackMasters Gourmet Jerky at last year’s Fresno Food Expo, which I attended to learn more about the food making process. To win the Buyer’s Choice Award just one year later for my unique jerky is very exciting,” said Lim. “This is where it all began.”

Currently being produced in a small facility off Lander Avenue in Hilmar, this award and a growing customer base calling for more jerky has encouraged ideas of expansion for SnackMasters and Aubrey’s Jerky.

Later this year, the company will add a new facility in Madera complete with a jerky tasting room.

While Aubrey’s Jerky took the top award for Buyer’s Choice, Tioga-Sequoia 99 Golden Ale came in second place and Lanna Coffee Co. Cold Brew took third.

Consumers voted for the “People’s Choice Award” by logging 3,954 votes during a two-week period via Facebook and the Fresno Food Expo website. ARO Pistachios was the winner of the award, having received 1,003 total votes for their ARO Gourmet Pistachios Grower's Reserve with Himalayan Pink Salt.

“We’re ecstatic. As a small, sixth generation, family-owned pistachio farming and processing operation, it is extremely humbling to win the People’s Choice Award,” said Adam Orandi, ARO Pistachios.

Returning to Fresno Food Expo for its second year, the Fred Ruiz Entrepreneurial Award 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. Lanna Coffee Co., a Fresno-based coffee company who sources its beans from Thailand to support economic stability in the villages where the beans are grown, was named the 2016 Fred Ruiz Entrepreneurial Award winner.

“We are truly honored to receive this award as such a young company in the midst of so many other great companies that represent the Valley,” said Bryan Feil, owner of Lanna Coffee Co. “To have the opportunity to work with and learn from a pioneer like Fred Ruiz will be an incredible asset for us.”