Food expo will pick top items. Walnut butter from Hughson? Plum sauce from Patterson?

A few producers in and near Modesto have entered contests at the Fresno Food Expo, which showcases California goods to the world.

An expert panel from the grocery business will decide the New Product Award, to be announced at the July 26 event. The public can vote online now for finalists for the Consumer Choice Award, to be decided by a separate panel reflecting the state's demographics.

The annual expo started as a way to connect San Joaquin Valley producers with buyers from grocery chains and other businesses. It expanded this year to all of California but still has a Valley flavor – nuts, fruit, dairy goods, wine and more.

Some producers are up for both awards, some for just one.

Grower Direct Nut Co. of Hughson, a longtime processor for the bulk walnut market, entered two items from its new Nutty Gourmet retail line. One is a honey-flavored walnut butter, the other a habanero-glazed snack nut.

The Fresno gathering could help add stores to the sales already done via Amazon, at farmers markets and at special events, Marketing Manager Martha Gonzalez said Monday.

The walnut butter comes in four other flavors: roasted, sea salt, maple-cinnamon and chocolate. The snack nuts also include sea salt, rosemary, honey, maple-cinnamon, chipotle and Buffalo.

Other contest entries from the Northern San Joaquin Valley:

  • Traina Foods of Patterson offered up its seasoned sun-dried tomatoes and a barbecue sauce made with sun-dried plums.
  • Tia Fina of Hughson entered the hot version of its salsa.
  • Burroughs Family Farms, east of Denair, entered organic whole milk that is not homogenized. The cream rises to the top, like the old days.
  • 51 FIFTY put forth new versions of the energy drinks it makes in Livingston. One is flavored with passion fruit, orange and guava. The other is organic peach, papaya and sweet potato.

The online voting will run to 11 p.m. July 22. The expo also will present the Fred Ruiz Entrepreneurial Award, named for a prominent producer of Mexican food in Tulare County.

Most of the expo will be for exhibitors and corporate buyers. The public can take part in a lavish tasting from 5 to 8 p.m., costing $50. It all takes place at the Fresno Convention & Entertainment Center, 848 M St.

The Fresno Bee contributed to this report.