Currently, the vast majority of the raisin industry spans nine raisin-producing countries, with world demand at 770,000 metric tons, and 45% of the world’s raisins grown in the U.S. While U.S. and Canadian consumers consume two-thirds of the U.S.’s raisins, one-third are exported. Of the raisins grown in the U.S., 99% of those come from California.

The California Raisin industry uses primarily Thompson seedless grapes that are dried naturally. The industry ensures that all of their raisins are mechanically washed and, when requested, can be dried with sulfur dioxide to preserve color. Raisins are considered a safe food--no foodborne illness has ever been associated with them, and raisins’ anti-microbial activity is developed through a combination of natural sun drying and state-of-the-art processing methods, preventing growth and survival of potential pathogens.

California raisins have many functional properties. They provide color and texture; enhance and carry flavor; their reducing sugars assist browning reactions; they can be used as a fat replacer or in place of sugar; and they balance spice/heat with natural sweetness. They are an ideal ingredient, because they are all-natural, cost-effective, easy to incorporate into a variety of dishes, and there is a reliable supply, noted David Ropa, consultant for the California Raisin Marketing Board, during his presentation, “Functional Fruits and New Product Development,” given at Prepared Foods’ 2008 R&D Applications Seminar--Chicago.

California raisin paste has the same nutritional value as raisins; contains 5.3g fiber per 100g; adds texture, color and mouthfeel to products; and adds sweetness with 70% reducing sugars. It can be easily blended or swirled throughout a product and is highly compatible, blending with a variety of flavors or spices. Moreover, raisin paste can replace fat in some bakery products and is extrudable/pumpable for filled products.

California Raisin Juice Concentrate is sweet (about 30% glucose and 35% fructose); pourable (70% Brix); adds amber to dark brown color; can be used as a flavor enhancer (2.2% tartaric acid); contains the natural preservative, propionic acid; and is made without the addition of sugars, preservatives or any other ingredients, added Ropa.

Many trend watchers report a move towards sweet and savory together. This makes raisins a natural addition to add visual, textural and flavor appeal to salsas, salads, desserts, baked goods and entrées. They are excellent in ethnic dishes, in that they increase authenticity and enhance the flavors and spices used, in addition to improving texture. Their upscale appeal makes raisins a complement to every protein on the menu.

Mintel International Database reports new raisin products in the U.S. include categories such as snacks, bakery, breakfast cereal, chocolate confectionery, sauces and seasonings, meals and meal centers, desserts and ice cream, sugar and gum confectionery, and spreads. pf 

For more information:
California Raisin Marketing Board * Fresno, Calif.
David Ropa *