Raisins are a natural product that may be used in a wide variety of applications. Given that 2006 saw almost 1,500 new products that contain raisins launched throughout the world, it would seem that raisins’ potential is just beginning to be tapped.

The California Raisin Marketing Board tracks usage trends with raisins. According to Tom Payne, during his presentation entitled, “Raisin Functionality Around the World,” presented at Prepared Foods’ 2007 R&D Applications Seminar-Chicago, “We have found that there are more operations using sweet and savory combinations, with raisins providing the sweet.” He went on to explain that the push for healthy eating, an increased interest in vegetarian diets and lower fat intake have helped push raisin demand. There were also 375 new products introduced in the U.S. and Canada in 2006 that used raisins. Europe saw the introduction of 475 new raisin products; Asia over 300 new items with raisins; and Latin America also with over 300 new products containing raisins. Factors that have driven the use of raisins around the world include health and convenience. In fact, over 58% of the introductions in Asia touted a healthy message.

Increased interest in raisins brings a greater interest in raisin functionality in foods and in raisins as ingredients. Europeans are more staid in their applications, tending to use the products in traditional applications; research and development people from Asia and Latin America, however, tend to be more innovative. Raisins are being used in Caribbean stews, Mexican molés and chili. In Asian applications, raisin juice concentrate is being added to tofu to enhance sweetness and impart color. Whole raisins are being used throughout the world to enhance texture and flavor and provide tasty tidbits in breads, salads and condiments.

The state of California is the main raisin-producing area in the world. Approximately 45% of the world’s raisins are produced by the 3,500 growers supplying 22 packers in the state. One-third of the California raisin crop is exported, with the U.S. and Canada consuming the bulk of the crop. The world demand for raisins stands at 770,000 metric tons.

California raisins are produced from seedless grapes and naturally sun-dried in the fields. Prior to packaging, the raisins are thoroughly washed, cleaned and sized. A small percentage of the pack consists of golden raisins, which are produced from Thompson seedless grapes. Natural and golden raisins are packaged for retail uses and for industrial applications. Although whole raisins are the main product of the California raisin industry, other products include raisin juice and raisin paste.

Raisin paste may be used as an ingredient in different products. It adds fiber; will help delay staling; can add texture and improve mouthfeel; enhances flavor due to its ability to bind water; and may be blended easily into products. Raisin paste also has been used as a natural replacement for fat in some bakery operations. Raisin juice concentrate is produced by extracting color, sugars, acids and flavors from raisins using water, after which it is concentrated to a brix of 70°. It has similar properties when used as an additive. It adds sweetness, is pourable, adds color, enhances flavor, acts as a natural preservative and blends well with a wide range of flavors and spices.

—Richard F. Stier, Contributing Editor

For more information:

California Raisin Marketing Board, San Mateo, Calif.
Tom Payne, 650-340-8563