Originally printed in the August 2018 issue of Produce Business.
Promoting health benefits and display’s positioning remain key to marketing.
Americans love raisins for lots of reasons, and each of those reasons is another opportunity for smart retailers to boost their sales.
Health remains a major driver. Raisins are an excellent source of the trace mineral boron, antioxidants, dietary fiber and the vitamins B1 and B6. Older consumers like them because raisins are often suggested as a way to promote regularity because of their high fiber content. Researchers at Oregon State University found raisins could be used as an alternative to sodium nitrate — a preservative used in bacon, jerky and lunch meats — which has been shown to break down into a cancer-causing chemical called nitrosamines.
Americans’ insatiable desire for healthy eating is fueling sales of raisins for salads, snacking, baking, to-go and more. Suppliers are doing their part, presenting consumers with a variety of tasty and innovative product options. For example:
- Earthbound Farm, a leading organic produce brand and a unit of Danone North America, is marketing a popular line of organic raisins.
- Mariani Packing Company in Vacaville, CA, is finding success with its Mariani Premium California Raisins, which are preservative-free and have no added sugar. Other brisk sellers include Sea Salt Caramel Raisins and Vanilla Yogurt Raisins.
- Champion Dried Fruit in Fowler, CA, is doing well marketing its Raisels Golden Raisin Sours line in Watermelon Shock, Lemon Blast and Orange Burst varieties. The company also markets Champion Vanilla Yogurt Coated Raisins.
- Roland Marketing Inc. in Fridley, MN, which sells and ships product locally, regionally and nationally, is pleasing American shoppers with its Franny’s Organic Raisins. The “gourmet organic” raisins come, the company says, “straight from the farm to you … and unlike conventional raisins, we use a controlled dehydration process called ‘water-dipped,’ which produces a uniform, full-bodied raisin.”
In fact, the demand for raisins is increasing globally, thanks to their varied applications and different health benefits. According to market research analysts at TechNavio in London, the growing popularity of a vegan diet is one of the key emerging trends in the global raisins market. In a May report, its TechNavio analysts said, “The number of consumers adopting vegan diet is increasing globally, thereby increasing the demand for raisins.” Though conventional raisins accounted for nearly 57 percent of the market last year, that marketshare is expected to trend downward by 2022. “The fastest-growing product is organic raisins, which will account for nearly 44 percent of the total marketshare by 2022,” according to TechNavio’s analysts.
Consumers and retailers alike love raisins’ versatility, which has implications – good ones – for the potential effectiveness for in-store marketing and merchandising strategies.
“Organic raisins continue to show growth in the marketplace,” notes Mitch Wetzel, vice president of sales for Sunview Marketing International in Delano, CA. All of Sunview’s jumbo raisins are made using dried table grapes. “They are larger than the majority of the raisins you will find in the marketplace.” Consumers love them, he adds, because “raisins are available year-round, and a great natural healthy snack.”
“Raisins are a popular promotional display item, since they respond well to impulse buys,” says Stephanie Harralson, director of marketing, North America, for Sunsweet Growers in Yuba City, CA. “They can sometimes be placed near other snacking fruits such as apples, or grouped with other healthy snack items, or on a shelf set with other dried fruits that is adjacent to produce.”
Promotions, when done effectively, can be used to drive sales. In-store shippers around key seasonal time frames such as early and late fall, winter holidays and Easter work well, says Harralson. “Ready-to-display case stacks are also a good way to bring attention to raisins.”
Executives at Sunsweet have found six-pack raisins are one of the most-popular forms, since raisins are a popular snacking item for both kids and adults. The Del Monte cannister is a top item for consumers who purchase raisins frequently, whether for snacking or baking.
Home bakers love to include lots of raisins, “but the most common usage is for snacking and as a topping for oatmeal or salads,” says Harralson.
Smart retailers help inform shoppers about uses and benefits they may not have thought of. “Most often, it’s as a healthy snack,” says Harralson. “During the holidays, they are promoted along with other baking ingredients for breads and cookies.”
According to Harralson, the biggest challenge faced by retailers when marketing raisins is “making sure they are easy to find for the consumer, and not hidden on a bottom shelf.” In-store displays are key during the important seasonal timeframes.
Cross merchandising, of course, always presents additional opportunities. “Some nice displays can be created with baking ingredients,” says Harralson. “Healthy lunch pairings would also make a good display opportunity.”
Health on Display
Joe Tamble, vice president of retail sales execution for Sun-Maid Growers of California in Minneapolis, says his data shows when dried fruit is located and displayed in the produce department, sales increase significantly when compared to center-store location.
Raisins are a primary part of Sun-Maid’s healthy product portfolio, which includes dried apricots, dried plums, dates, dried apples, dried peaches and dried figs, which have similar nutritional values as their fresh fruit counterparts. Package sizes range from single-serve boxes for portion-control snacks to resealable zipper bags that encourage healthy snacking both at home and on-the-go.
“Sun-Maid raisins and dried fruits are commonly cross-promoted by retailers with other snacks such as nuts and salads, which helps to increase consumer basket size,” explains Tamble. His company partners with many retailers in produce departments to successfully promote Sun-Maid raisins and dried fruit as healthy impulse snacks.
“Many produce retailers have health-focused initiatives, and Sun-Maid is often a key partner in these programs,” he adds. “Retailers frequently use Sun-Maid shipper and pallet displays to help promote these initiatives.”
According to Tamble, more than 20 percent of total dried fruit category dollars are generated from displays. One of the easiest ways for retailers to encourage dried fruit purchases, he says, is to get it up on display. “As health and wellness become more of a focus for many adults and children, dried fruit provides them with a snacking option that makes them feel good about their snacking choices.”
His company offers many different types of raisins and dried fruit shipper and pallet displays to generate impulse purchases. These displays are pre-filled and assembled when delivered to retailers. The displays provide an easy method for retailers to drive sales and increase basket size, with minimal labor costs.
The company also helps raise consumer awareness and sales by providing abundant recipe ideas, including dishes such as Cuban Rice, Beans and Raisins, Banana French Toast, Fruit Gallette, Raisin Serrano Quesadillas, breakfast bars, Lemon and Date Chicken Salad and classic raisin oatmeal cookies.
Raisins represent the largest segment of the dried-fruit category, points out Tamble, “and raisins are very profitable when merchandised in the produce section. There is very little, or almost no, shrink when the dried fruit category is located in the produce department.”
Raisins are one of the healthiest foods available in stores today, with no added sugar and more than 40 items as part of its consumer product portfolio.
The overall dried fruit category continues to show positive trends year over year, including raisins. As more and more consumers are being made aware of the health benefits, the future looks increasingly bright for the category. The No. 1 selling item in the total dried fruit category is the Sun-Maid raisin canisters. Other popular sizes include six-packs, 10-ounce stand-up bags and 12-ounce boxes.
Today’s health-oriented consumer is looking for “simple, real food, and as a result the organic segment of the dried fruit category continues to grow,” says Tamble. “The raisin segment is the most popular, and the fastest-growing segment of organic dried fruit.”
Tamble says there are a number of ways to get the word out to consumers. They include:
- Merchandising. He says this is key. “High-profile displays on raisins throughout the year stimulates incremental sales.”
- Highlight seasonal usage. “There are numerous raisin recipes to generate increased usage,” says Tamble. “Healthy snacking is here to stay, and raisins are a big part of this trend. Raisins are perfect for summer get-togethers, as well as traditional recipes.”