A Message from the Executive Director

With harvest behind us, the California Prune industry remains diligent in our commitment to the premium quality of California Prunes – from production and drying to packaging and promotion – the California Prunes brand stands above the rest.  The market disruptions caused by the pandemic and the challenges of devastating wildfires remind us of the importance to support each other in the industry and work together to navigate these times.
Growers and handlers can now estimate production of 50,000 short tons of California Prunes, a decrease of 37% from the previous year.  We also see new opportunities to build market demand as recent data from the close of our 2019 crop year underscore consumer desire for California’s best-in-class prunes, as shipments to export markets jumped 17% and domestic shipments improved by 12%, as compared to the previous year.  These signs together trend positively towards a more balanced supply and demand position and a healthier industry.

As we all adjust to the circumstances of this new marketing year, the California Prune Board team is pleased to present this latest edition of Positively Prunes as a showcase of our most recent efforts to create a world enthusiastic about California Prunes.

— Donn Zea

Executive Director


A Conversation with New Board Chairman: George Sousa, Jr.

The California Prune Board confirmed the newly elected board seats this past June and George Sousa Jr. assumed the role as chairman on of August 1, 2020. George is the President of Mariani Packing Co., Inc., a global dried fruit manufacturing family business in Vacaville, Calif. As a 4th generation family member, George has been with the company since 1982 and has managed all aspects of the organization during this time. He is passionate about prunes and excited to bring his enthusiasm to the board as the new chairman. Read the interview below. 

George Sousa in orchard

What do you hope to achieve in the next year?

We knew we’d have a short crop this year, so it is important to maintain the programs we have in place and increase grower knowledge and support of the board’s activities. We have to keep communicating with our growers and handlers, executing on our vision and strategic plan, and creating deliverables for our management team and the agencies we use to promote California Prunes. These deliverables will ensure we are getting the results for the money that we are investing.

What will your leadership look like?

The Board is made up of industry leaders and we have all made a commitment to do what’s in the best interest for growers and packers and ensure the long-term health of the entire industry. In particular, the executive committee has made a strong effort to think about the industry as if we were running our own businesses. We look at the executive team as a senior management group and work with the different committees to execute the strategic side.

What makes you confident in the future of the California Prune industry?

There has been a lot of transition in California ag over the last few years, and the prune business has certainly been impacted. While we’ve had a substantial oversupply of prunes, the combination of less acreage and the world supply coming into balance with demand has put us in a much more stable industry position.

The biggest advantage we have is that California Prunes offer all the things consumers are looking for. Prunes are healthy, functional, and portable and we have the research to support it. To me, the key is to work more closely together as an industry, focus on the premium quality of California Prunes, and deliver a value-added product, which will be reflected in the pricing to growers.

To increase demand and consumption of California Prunes, we want to continue to highlight the incredible nutrition research with the media, our partners, and with influencers who educate others. Our management team is committed to strengthening and growing demand. Together with our in-country agencies, we have a well-coordinated effort to promote California Prunes with a consistent message.


California Prunes is Leading the Charge on Sulfuryl Fluoride

This July, the California Prune Board was awarded funding through the USDA/FAS Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops (TASC) program for its proposal titled “Preserving sulfuryl fluoride for dried fruit exports to the European Union.” The CPB/TASC project will proactively address the voids in residue data for sulfuryl fluoride (SF) used in the treatment of U.S. dried fruit and tree nuts to retain access to the critical EU market.

Prunes at harvest

The work officially began on July 15th and will include three-phases over the next three years.

“We’re grateful for the support from FAS to fund this project and help us solve a problem that affects our industry,” says Executive Director Donn Zea. Gary Obenauf, lead on the TASC project and CPB Production Research Coordinator, added that “while the prune industry will directly benefit from this project, other dried fruits and nuts are also part of the project and these crops will benefit as well.”

Objectives of the project include:

  1. Establishing proper tolerances/MRLs for SF on dried fruit.
  2. Evaluating residues associated with contemporary SF use patterns on dried fruit and tree nuts.
  3. Quantifying fluoride residues from SF vacuum fumigation of dried fruit and tree nuts.
  4. Transferring research outcomes to other key markets to support QPS treatments.
  5. Limiting SF emissions following post-harvest fumigation.

Performance reports will be developed during each phase and will become available through the California Prune Board. For more information on the TASC project and other agricultural research projects relating to prunes, read Gary Obenauf’s latest quarterly report.


Nutrition News

Good News Keeps Coming for California Prunes and Bone Health

A new, peer-reviewed animal study shows a diet high in California Prunes completely prevents bone loss associated with spinal cord injury (SCI), while also restoring a fraction of the bone lost after SCI. The study was conducted as part of the California Prune industry’s long-time commitment to world-class nutrition research. Individuals who suffer spinal cord injury (SCI) are prone to extremely rapid bone loss. This leads to a significant increase in the risk of fractures, osteoporosis, and overall mortality. Results of a new animal study show California Prunes may be able to help.

In the recent study, mice underwent SCI and were fed a diet containing 25% California Prunes or a control diet with no prunes for up to four weeks. The California Prune diet completely prevented bone loss. In contrast, the mice fed the control group diet, lost a significant amount of bone. Additional study findings reveal that after only two weeks, the California Prune diet partially restored bone that had already been lost to the SCI.

“The growing body of evidence related to California Prunes and bone health truly has the potential to change lives,” said Donn Zea, Executive Director of the California Prune Board. “We still have a long way to go, but imagine if – through future research – we could determine what it is about California Prunes that can help address SCI-related bone loss. It could be revolutionary for people in need all over the world.”

It remains unclear what bioactive compounds in dried plum are responsible for the beneficial effects on bone. However, researchers suggest that the polyphenol content in dried plums may play a role.

Further study is needed to identify the specific compound(s), as well as to determine if the results from the animal-based study can be replicated among humans.

The new study findings build on previous industry-funded research that shows a link between positive bone health response and California Prunes in post-menopausal women, along with animal-based research that shows a similar favorable bone response among those exposed to radiation – such as astronauts in space.

View the abstract here: Dried plum mitigates spinal cord injury‐induced bone loss in mice

Reference: Liu X, Liu M, Turner R, Iwaniec U, Kim H, Halloran B (2020) Dried plum mitigates spinal cord injury-induced bone loss in mice. JOR Spine. e1113. https://doi.org/10.1002/jsp2.1113

2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report: A Lifespan Approach to Healthy Dietary Patterns

Summary Provided by Mary Jo Feeney, MS, RDN, FADA, FAND

The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has submitted its scientific report to the Secretaries of Health and Human Services and Agriculture. The report emphasizes:

  • A lifespan approach – reflecting the growing body of evidence that appropriate nutrition during the first 1000 days of life contributes to long-term health and sets the stage for taste Lifestages graphicpreferences and food choices throughout life (See life stage infographic). Across the lifespan, the typical diet Americans consume results in higher intakes of energy, saturated fats, sodium, and added sugars while intakes of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are below recommended levels. Intakes of dietary fiber, potassium, vitamin D, and calcium are under-consumed and considered nutrients of public health concern.

 

  • Dietary patterns – acknowledging that consumers do not eat nutrients or foods in isolation but in various combinations over time. These patterns may have interactive, synergistic, and cumulative relationships on overall health more fully than individual nutrients or foods contributing to several health outcomes and lowering the risk of chronic disease. A dietary pattern approach to healthy eating is less ‘prescriptive’ – providing consumers the flexibility to tailor food combinations appropriate throughout life stages while accommodating cultural and culinary preferences. (See dietary patterns infographic). Characteristics of dietary patterns linked with positive health outcomes include a higher intake of vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, low-or nonfat dairy, lean meat and poultry, seafood, nuts and unsaturated vegetable oils and are also low in red and processed meats, sugar-sweetened foods and beverages and refined grains

Although the Committee has completed its work with the submission of the report to the Secretaries, the report will be reviewed by the agencies prior to issuing the final 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans by the end of 2020. To access the full report, visit. https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/2020-advisory-committee-report

2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report by the Numbers

  • 20 health experts deliberated the evidence
  • 2 distinguishing features in the 835-page report: lifespan approach and healthy dietary patterns
  • 70% of Americans are overweight or obese
  • 6 in 10 Americans have a chronic condition
  • 4 in 10 Americans have 2 or more chronic conditions
  • 81% of consumers do not meet the recommended intake of fruit, eating less than 1 cup equivalent per day
  • 30 percent, 50 percent, and 60 percent of added sugars are contributed by sweetened beverages (excluding coffee and tea with added sugar) to the diet of young children, adolescents, and adults, respectively
  • 6% limit of calories from added sugar. This is down from 10% from previous guidelines and half of what is currently consumed at 13%
  • 0% calories from added sugar for those under 2 years of age

Conclusion Statement on Bone Health

The current report raises the visibility of bone health in dietary patterns and guidance. Previously, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines stated that there was limited evidence suggesting a relationship between dietary patterns and bone health in adults. The current report says now there is moderate evidence for adults.

Moderate evidence indicates that a dietary pattern higher in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, low-fat dairy, whole grains, and fish, and lower in meats (particularly processed meats), sugar-sweetened beverages, and sweets are associated with favorable bone health outcomes in adults, primarily decreased risk of hip fracture.

Insufficient evidence is available to determine the relationship between dietary patterns consumed during childhood and bone health.

Implications for Prunes

  • Prunes are a good source of dietary fiber and have potassium, nutrients of public health concern. Both fiber and potassium are required to be on the Nutrition Facts
  • Prunes have no added sugar – also required to be stated on the Nutrition Facts panel
  • Prunes team well with other foods in a healthy dietary pattern
  • Prunes can be enjoyed throughout a person’s life and are a nutritious choice for the 2-3 snacks Americans eat daily
  • Healthy dietary patterns that include fruit support bone health – CPB research has discovered that prunes slow bone breakdown in postmenopausal women

Domestic Update

What’s Cooking in California Prunes Test Kitchen

Our PR and social media teams developed a new suite of recipe content with accompanying photography for use on the website, media pitching, and social media efforts featuring California Prunes in June and July. Well-written recipes and fresh photography are important drivers for impressions and engagement on social media.

Here is some of the new content that was developed:

Nutrition Events Go Virtual While Reaching More People

Sponsorships with Produce for Better Health and Today’s Dietitian turned virtual this year, reaching an extended audience of nutrition pros that allow for more integrated opportunities and amplified messaging. For both events, California Prunes sponsored webinars that provide real value to the dietetic audience which builds trust and creates a more receptive audience for California Prune-specific messaging. The sponsorships both included additional touchpoints highlighting the health and versatility of California Prunes in unique ways for each specific event.

Produce for Better Health

Today’s consumers are constantly inundated with messages. What’s trending on social media, opinions of friends and family, the mainstream news media, and more can all have an impact on foodPBH Post

and nutrition topics. As part of a California Prunes sponsorship with PBH in July, RD Ambassador Leslie Bonci presented “From You to Yum!” a webinar designed to showcase how nutrition professionals can leverage their communications, trends, and perceptions to become relevant for consumers today and in the future. Sponsorship also included social media posts and inclusion in the PBH newsletter touting easy ways to add California Prunes to meals or as a satisfying snack. Messaging also emphasized the antioxidants, fiber and vitamin K, and that California Prunes are a simple way to support good digestive health and build stronger bones.

 

Today’s Dietitian Partnership

Earlier this summer in conjunction with Today’s Dietitian, a leading organization for nutrition professionals, the California Prunes team fielded a survey to gauge the impact of COVID-19 on the dietetics profession, as well as consumer interests and behaviors during the pandemic. The survey findings revealed interesting insights into the type of information consumers seek from dietitians showing that 60% of consumers are interested in shelf-stable fruits and veggies and 35% of RDs are recommending more shelf-stable produce. In a September webinar to Today’s Dietitian members, nutrition expert, Leslie Bonci, RD, MPH, CSSD, LDN presented these findings and elaborated on the numerous benefits of shelf-stable foods like California Prunes, underscoring the importance of dietitians’ role in communicating to clients and providing sound and relevant advice about how to eat healthfully. Sponsorship also included several e-blasts that drove the dietician community to the Wellness Hub to learn more about California Prunes and sign up for future newsletters so we can continue communicating directly about the health benefits of prunes as well as showcasing our growing body of research.

Choosing California Prune Juice

Prune juice represents an important part of the overall product profile for California’s prune industry but consumers can be exposed to unsatisfactory experiences if they aren’t getting the premium quality from prune juice made with California Prunes. To inform and educate retail buyers and decision-makers to choose California Prune juice, CPB coordinated media partnerships with Supermarket Guru Phil Lempert and SmartBrief for Food Retail Professionals to spotlighted why sourcing premium prune juice matters and why California counts. Additionally, 250+ retail dietitians were reached with an e-blast newsletter and all content was shared on a newly created California Prune Juice web page featuring a new selection of prune juice recipes.

The campaign launched in July and ran through August but trade media outreach and consumer interest in recipes allow the team to continue utilizing these assets throughout the year.

California Prunes Tap Home Cooking Trend

More and more consumers are cooking at home, a side effect of COVID-19 shutdowns, and some are cooking at home for the first time. About two-thirds of Gen X and Millennials[1] are cooking more at home, which leaves an opportunity for brands to offer helpful recipes and cooking demonstrations.

The California Prune Board is tapping into the trend and reaching this younger audience through a strategic partnership with The Feed Feed (an online crowd-sourced cooking community of 1.8 million followers) and CA GROWN. Recipes featuring California Prunes have been featured on The Feed Feed and CA GROWN social channels as well as serving as a starring role in recipes featured in an online cooking class and E-cookbook. Chocolate Prune Cake

Utilizing social channels such as Pinterest where users search for inspiration and save recipe ideas, California Prunes has branched further into this social media channel with enticing imagery. Reach on Pinterest has expanded for California Prunes this year through strategic pins on shared boards with CA GROWN and influencers contracted with CPB and the CA Grown partnership. Additionally, recipe pins are shared on blogger share groups, broadening the reach of recipes even further. The CA Prunes account has 19K monthly views, up from 2K a year ago due to a concerted effort to maximize our presence in this influential space.

[1] Source:  Technomic 2020 Generational Consumer Trend Report


Global Market Updates

CPB Japan Webinar Exceeds Expectations

In June, CPB Japan introduced the well-documented gut health benefits of California Prunes to the Health Care Professional (HCP) community in Japan through an online lecture by Prof. Kamachi, Ph. D., CPB’s health consultant.

The webinar was a success and greatly exceeded the original target of 50 attendees. There were 221 participants. In a post-seminar questionnaire, over 90% of the respondents said that the seminar was good and 95% of the respondents answered that they would recommend prunes. A recording of the webinar was uploaded and made available for five days after the webinar for those HCPs who were unable to attend the seminar day-of.

Prune Growers Bring the California Story to Life for Japanese Trade

The California Prunes brand story starts with our producers. Grower stories are the most powerful form of communications and California Prune producers have always played an important role in sharing their experiences with markets internationally. This year the California Prune Board brought these stories to life for the Japanese trade with an advertorial depicting four unique grower profiles in the Nikkei MJ newspaper, Japan’s most trusted trade newspaper with an estimated 601,000 readers targeting mainly those working in the retail, wholesale, and distribution industries. The advertorial complimented coverage in the newspaper about foods that are selling well and what people are doing to combat COVID-19 (such as increasing immunity through gut health) and served as a pivot from a previously planned Asia tour with the featured growers this Spring. View the advertorial.

EU Team Drives Results in Poland with Video

In order to drive awareness of California Prunes among the Polish trade, the CPB European team had made plans to visit trade members in Poland; however, due to COVID-19 travel restrictions & country lockdowns, alternative plans needed to be made.

The team turned to technology to achieve their goals by preparing a video interview highlighting the following key messages:

  • Positive export data to Poland
  • The long shelf life of California Prunes and relevance during the current period of uncertainty
  • The health benefits of California Prunes
  • How California Prunes can add value to businesses

The video was accompanied by a press release and generated significant interest among Polish business media. The video press release, wired to business media in June, generated over 20 publicity clips with an estimated reach of 250,000. It proved to be an effective tool to reach and engage the business target group with the key messages.

Canada Digital Ads Drive More Than 26k Clicks to Website

Earlier this year, CPB Canada created English and French digital ads as part of an ongoing effort to boost consumer awareness of California Prunes in Canada and drive website traffic. A combination of search ads, digital banner ads, and boosted social content, which were geo-targeted to Canadian audiences, helped increase message penetration and drove thousands of new visitors to californiaprunes.ca.

The goal of each ad was to educate consumers about the versatility of California Prunes through shared recipe content; increase consumer’s awareness of California Prunes’ specific health properties pertaining to bone health; increase the number of consumers who purchase California Prunes at least once every six months; and increase consumer awareness of California Prunes as a healthy snack option.

The digital ads yielded impressive results, including:
  • English digital ads (April –May) resulted in 10M English impressions and 3M French impressions, increasing Canadians’ exposure to the health properties of California Prunes.
  • Social content boosted on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter resulted in more than 450K impressions.
  • Search ads showed up in more than 100K searches made by Canadians, increasing consumer awareness, and encouraging people to visit the website.
  • All efforts resulted in more than 26K clicks to www.californiaprunes.ca in April & May.

CPB China Hosts Successful Influencer Campaign

The increasing demands for healthier food and a desire for improved quality of life in China are causing Chinese consumers to think twice about healthy food, including California Prunes. With COVID-19 at the forefront of everyone’s mind Chinese, there is no better time to educate Chinese consumers on the great nutritional values of California Prunes.

On June 12th, CPB China, in collaboration with Nutritionist Liang, hosted a live stream workshop to promote California Prunes and encourage health-conscious followers to eat them. Nutritionist Liang not only presented the nutrition benefits of California Prunes but also taught the nationwide audience how to incorporate California Prunes into granola bars. The live stream was broadcasted on Yizhibo platform and lasted for an hour and a half.

With over 6.6 million impressions, this influencer campaign was a huge success. Current consumer behavior, as a result of COVID-19, meant that we had an opportunity to promote California Prunes’ positive immunity-boosting benefits as well as highlight their long shelf life.

Recent Survey Reveals Italian Shoppers Prefer CA Prunes

An independent consumer research study was conducted in the Italian market  earlier this year and the findings in Italy are very strong for the California Prune Board, with significant increases seen in both attitudes/perceptions of prunes/California prunes, as well as usage and purchasing habits – driven by the advertising and promotional campaigns. View shopper insights here.

UK Trade Sees Growth Potential with CA Prunes

Trade organizations in the United Kingdom are recognizing the potential for business growth with California Prunes, as shipments soar. Tariff reductions planned for January 2021 further open the door for opportunities in how California Prunes can help to grow their business. To prove the point, the CPB EU team communicated with the trade and reconfirmed commitments from several importers. See how we are arming the trade with information to reach a range of potential suppliers here.


Share Your Family Prune Recipes!

The stories and family traditions from California’s rich prune heritage is a unique and authentic way to build brand trust and connect with consumers. This year, the California Prunes team will feature treasured family recipes from our farmers and we would love your input! If you have a favorite recipe that highlights your family traditions, culture, and uses prunes, please submit to [email protected]. Be sure to tell us your name, a little bit of history, and how the recipe has been a part of your family story.
Submit Your Heritage Recipe Here

Photo of a family in the back of the truck within a prune orchard