Opportunities and Challenges in the Raisin Market

With new packaging designs that enhance the visual appeal of raisins, retailers should put the product where consumers can visually see it in the produce department

Raisins should not be overlooked in the produce department.

Originally printed in the May 2024 issue of Produce Business.

If the retail store produce department was a theater production, raisins would be unassuming supporting actors, but they should not be overlooked.

These diminutive, dried grapes, long relegated to the sidelines of snacking and baking, are poised for a renaissance. Retailers now have a prime opportunity to reintroduce raisins to consumers, placing them center stage to showcase their nutrition, versatility and convenience.

For too long, raisins have been hidden behind boxes and canisters, but it’s time for raisins to become starring attractions. With innovative new packaging designs that enhance their visual appeal and an expanding cast of raisin varieties, the time is ripe to reinvent the raisin’s image.

“We’re in the middle of a foundational shift of what our product is, and how it’s different,” says Mitch Wetzel, vice president of sales for Sunview Marketing International, a family-owned produce wholesaler with a sales office in McFarland, CA.

“We’re trying to shift from the raisins that came in the boxes, that we all knew as kids, to a fresher and more exciting version. What we’re really doing is driving raisins into a healthy snack category more than just a dried fruit category.”


The raisins of old were not very exciting, but Wetzel says once consumers get a taste of the new raisins, they can’t stop eating them. Retailers are moving raisins from the middle of the store, to the produce department next to other dried fruits and nuts.

While the lunchbox-sized boxes and canister packaging will still be available, Sunview is developing new packaging that shows off raisins’ plump juiciness and more appealing raisin colors.

Consumers have been buying raisins in cardboard canisters for the past 40 years, but now consumers can see the difference with hourglass-shaped canisters and pouches with clear windows that showcase the fruit.

Sunview Marketing International, McFarland, CA, has developed innovative new containers that allow customers to see the premium raisin products. These containers have also been designed with secondary use and recyclability in mind.

“We’re not trying to hide the product behind a fiberboard box or canister anymore,” says Wetzel. “We’re trying to put the product where you can visually see it.”

Sunview is cross-merchandising with some of its retail customers. For retailers that offer a refrigerated bunker with grapes, there are usually opportunities for shelves placed either below or extending from the side of the bunker. “We’re working with them on displaying the raisins right there with the grapes,” says Wetzel.

Tennison Hoofard, Sunview’s international account manager for raisins, emphasizes the importance of their recyclable and secondary-use packaging to their global customers. The majority of Sunview’s raisins are exported to countries where the plastic packaging is given a second life by holding pantry staples such as rice, coffee or tea.

Raisins are shifting from a supporting role as a dried fruit, and into the spotlight as a healthy snack.

Hoofard says two years of packaging development has led to a container that feels good to hold, is aesthetically appealing, highlights the premium jumbo raisins, and showcases artwork that draws the consumer’s eye to the product it holds.

“And to complement that, our plan is to work with the retailers on developing sampling promotions, where we can showcase the products even more, so consumers can see and taste the difference.”


Stephanie Blackwell, founder of Aurora Products, a family-owned company and packager of all-natural foods in Orange, CT, sells raisins primarily as a component of trail mixes. She says consumer opinions about raisins have changed in recent years.

“Instead of being considered an inexpensive berry, its reputation is changing to a dried berry that has no sugar added, such as cranberries, cherries and blueberries,” she explains. “It is dried with its own sugars and this is a huge benefit. It also contains antioxidants, which is a buzzword.”

Aurora emphasizes organics and gives consumers the option of purchasing organic raisins and trail mixes. “Organics is a growing field,” says Blackwell. “Every supermarket now carries organic dried fruits and trail mixes, whereas in the past, it was only select stores.”


Sunview Marketing is making raisins out of table grapes rather than traditional raisin grapes. That, they say, creates a more premium product. The premium grape varieties that Sunview grows add up to 350 to 500 berries per pound, in comparison to more traditional grape yields of 800 to 1,200 berries per pound.

“Our grapes are about two and a half times bigger than your standard raisin,” says Wetzel. “It adds to the plumpness and gives it a juicier, and more meaty eating experience.”

The plumper raisin tastes more like a freshly dried grape and less like the dry, small, and hard Thompson grape raisin that has been the status quo. Sunview is producing single variety packages of red and green, along with a medley of red and green and red, green and black raisins. Red and black grapes also are available in an organic option.

With all of these innovations, customers will likely see a higher price point. Wetzel says customers are paying more, but they’re getting more.


The world’s largest premium fruit-breeding company, Bloom Fresh, has headquarters in London but has a large breeding campus in Bakersfield, CA. Bloom Fresh, formerly known as IFG, specializes in table grapes, cherries and raisins, and is known for breeding the Cotton Candy grape, among others. Bloom is breeding several new varieties primarily for manufacturers of raisin cookies and other raisin products.

“We are known for developing really interesting grape varieties with different shapes and different flavors, things that are completely new to the industry,” says Dr. Chris Owens, Bloom’s head plant breeder.

Bloom develops new varieties of raisins, and then typically leases them to a grower. A focus now is on developing new naturally dried-on-the-vine (DOV) varieties and early ripening varieties. By growing DOV raisins, growers can cut down on labor-intensive harvesting processes and can harvest the raisins earlier in the season. Currently, most raisin growers harvest only in September. Early ripening varieties also minimize risks of loss to rain.

“We’re basically trying to mechanize raisin production as much as we can,” says Owens, “and give growers more options for new varieties that we think have some improvements over the older existing varieties.”

Since the vast majority of the industry grows and uses Thompson seedless, which becomes available in September each year, being able to harvest different varieties earlier in the season would spread the demand for labor and for machinery. “That would help smooth the demand out to a longer window, which would be really helpful,” says Owens.

“We’re trying to make it more sustainable, from a business perspective, for people to actually grow raisins,” Owens says. “Because right now, at least in California, raisin acreage is going down because it’s difficult for people to profitably grow raisins.”