The dried fruit category continues to enjoy growth as industry associations communicate the high nutritional value of raisins, prunes, dates and dried cranberries and producers add to their product lines.
Foodservice products and promotions also are helping keep dried fruit in front of consumers with restaurant chains such as Wendy’s and McDonald’s offering salads and oatmeal with raisins and sweetened dried cranberries.
Paul DeFranco, co-owner of DeFranco & Sons, Los Angeles, said dried fruit is a small category but as health-conscious Americans increasingly embrace trail mix and similar snack options it will continue to grow.
With harvest having just begun in the last 10 days of September, the Cranberry Marketing Committee, Wareham, Mass., was sticking by earlier estimates of 7.36 million barrels for the 2011 U.S. crop. If the berries come in as expected, 2011 will be the second largest crop on record, behind the 2008 harvest of 7.6 million barrels.
The vast majority of the country’s cranberries are not sold fresh, but the marketing committee’s chief operating officer Michelle Hogan said the organization does not track how many go to the sweetened dried category.
Ocean Spray Co. put the sweetened dried cranberry on the map with its trademarked Craisins about 20 years ago. Now about 20% of Ocean Spray’s revenue comes from the sweetened dried cranberries, making them the fastest growing part of the company’s business. Ocean Spray produces about 2.8 million barrels of sweetened dried cranberries annually, according to spokesman John Isaf.
Earthbound Farm, San Juan Bautista, Calif., is giving the dried red berries another boost with a product announced Sept. 22. Part of its PowerMeal line, the Earthbound Farm Cranberry Wheat Protein Boost salad includes fresh organic greens along with the berries and whole grains.
Tom Lochner, executive director of the Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association, Wisconsin Rapids, said Sept. 27 that the quality of the berries was looking very good but it was too early to tell about size because all of the varieties were not into harvest mode yet.
“Prices are showing good returns for the Ocean Spray growers so far,” Lochner said, “but there is a disparity between them and the independent growers. We’d like to see those prices come up.”
Although less than half of the state’s growers are in the Ocean Spray co-op Lochner said they account for about 65% of the Wisconsin crop. The state produces more than half of U.S. cranberries, with 438 million barrels anticipated this year.