The fifth annual Fresno Food Expo is fast approaching meaning several local companies are eager to introduce their new and improved products to the public for the first time.
A host of Central Valley exhibitors will showcase their new items including a handful of companies from the immediate region like Bella Viva of Denair, 51FIFTY energy drinks of Livingston, and Sweet Potato Spirits of Atwater. All three companies have shown products at the Fresno Food Expo before, but this year each will be launching a new product just in time for the event.
While Bella Viva will be showcasing their Pure and Natural line of tart apples which have been exhibited before, this time there is a twist: the company is launching its first line of single-serve bags.
"It’s a brand new item for us. We have never done a single serve before," said Bella Viva representative Brean Bettencourt.
Each package will include seven single-serve bags, a product that was created in response to customer demand. The apples, a popular seller for Bella Viva, made an ideal item with which to launch the new product since they have a longer availability year-round explained Bettencourt.
"I'd also say that’s a growing trend within the natural food market place because it is so convenient and it is something more folks at the grocery store are buying. We are seeing that as a major trend in the industry and we wanted to respond to that," said Bettencourt.
Another marketplace trend that is undoubtedly popular is the nationwide interest in organic products. Local energy drink company 51FIFTY is tapping into this through the introduction of their latest product flavor: organic strawberry banana. The new energy drink is naturally caffeinated, contains more vitamins than their traditional drinks, and is flavored from local sweet potatoes grown by AV Thomas.
"It's not on the market yet and the Fresno Food Expo will be the first time we publicly sample it,” said 51FIFTY representative Samantha Yniguez.
A selection of 51FIFTY's traditional energy drinks will also be on display at the event, though the Expo comes at an ideal time for the company to begin marketing their latest product.
"It's two fold for us because we get to introduce the new product to different customers and buyers and have them actually sample them rather than just sending information on the product. But, because its open to public in the afternoon, that lets the public taste the products which supports current stores in the market too," explained Yniguez.
51FIFTY isn't the only company tapping into the local sweet potato market as Sweet Potato Spirits is preparing to showcase a range of sweet potato infused products. While the company has shown products before at the Expo, such as its Corbin vodka, this year owner David Souza is excited to launch four more products: a sweet potato based gin, a blended whiskey, a rye whiskey, and a barrel aged sweet potato liquor. The new products are slated to hit the market a month after the Expo, making it "the perfect scenario, really" said Souza.
"The Expo is a good platform for us because people get to taste the product and if they like it they are not afraid to purchase it, but we also get our story out there," explained Souza. "Our products are from California, locally based -- they are true farm to bottle spirits."
The demand for Sweet Potato Spirits has also been on the uptick which has been somewhat of a good problem for Souza who is expanding his distillery.
"We can't keep a whiskey on the shelf," he laughed. "If we had more whiskey we could sell it. It is so hot right now, you can’t make enough."
The success of the brown spirits has also lent more credibility to Souza's vodka because he has been able to establish his brand. In the spirits industry where companies tend to come and go, creating new products has allowed Souza to solidify his company's brand.
"Launching the brown spirits has actually given the vodka a little more value. Now that we have a whiskey portfolio, it shows that we are invested in the long-term and its gained a lot of accounts by launching the brown spirits," said Souza.
Furthermore, events like the Fresno Food Expo allow Souza to connect with potential retailers and consumers alike.
The Fresno Food Expo will take place on July 23. For a complete list of exhibitors access www.fresnofoodexpo.com.