Yep! It’s the Holiday Season
— Kiaran Locy
Director of Brand & Industry Communications
Q&A with CA Prunes Nutrition Advisor
Nutrition Advisor Andrea Giancoli, MPH, RD works in collaboration with Research Coordinator Mary Jo Feeney on nutrition research and provides nutrition communications counsel to the CPB team. In this interview, Andrea shares some of the latest from our nutrition research and how the Nutrition Research Roadmap sets us up for success.
1. Welcome to the team! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Thank you and greetings all. I am thrilled to be part of the California Prune Board team working on nutrition communications and with Mary Jo Feeney on nutrition research. I became a registered dietitian because nutrition and health have always been my passion. I love talking about food and nutrition if anyone is listening (or interested), although it can often be a sensitive topic, similar to religion and politics – you don’t necessarily want to bring it up in mixed company! So, I promise all my friends and family that I will never judge what they’re eating unless they ask.
Professionally, I have a background in TV news and was a media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for nine years. I learned how to handle the media and to translate often complex scientific information into consumable messages for all types of audiences. I’ve been on both sides of the camera and was a freelance health writer for many years so I bring that experience to the nutrition communications program with CPB.
On a more personal note, I am a native Californian born in Oakland, raised in southern California, and didn’t travel far for college to attend UCLA where I also earned my Masters of Public Health Nutrition. I have lived in a few other places (England, Italy, Atlanta, Kensington CA) during my life and always chose to come back to my So-Cal roots. I love the beach and sun and currently live in most likely my forever home in beautiful Hermosa Beach. In my spare time when I’m not thinking about California Prunes or power walking on the beach, I volunteer in my community as both a city council appointed commissioner for the city’s Department of Public Works, and as a mentor, organization advisor, and leadership class facilitator for a nonprofit near to my heart called Leadership Hermosa Beach.
2. What is the goal of the Nutrition Research Roadmap?
The Roadmap is a 10-year strategic plan for nutrition research that is designed to expand the evidence about prunes and healthy bones and identify a gateway to what’s known as the gut-bone axis or connection. The goal is to get us closer to owning the bone story with enough scientific backing. The Roadmap contains a number of research recommendations that are intended to:
- Improve the cadence of our communications so that there is research being published and communicated at least yearly.
- Address research gaps in varying demographics. We’ve done a lot of research on postmenopausal women so we’re branching out to other age groups.
- Consider global/regional needs by initiating research outside of the U.S. We want to make sure we’re serving other markets and countries with different diets and cultural behaviors unlike that in the U.S.
- Take a life stage approach that integrates our brand tagline Prunes. For Life.
3. What is our research telling us about prunes and bone health so far?
We’re learning that prune consumption appears to inhibit bone breakdown and may promote bone formation and strength in postmenopausal women. Further, in a study published this October, researchers reported that daily prune consumption had modest protective effects in men 50 and over. So, it’s not just postmenopausal women whose bones benefit from prune consumption.
While we’re still learning what specifically is happening in the body from prune consumption, at least part of the answer likely lies in the interconnection between the gut (the digestive tract, especially the intestines and stomach) and our bones. We call this the gut-bone axis or connection. Simply put, prunes seem to cause some changes in the gut and gut microbiota that exert a beneficial effect on bone. We expect to learn about this and more in the coming year with results coming out of Penn State from Dr. Mary Jane De Souza.
4. What else are we learning from research?
We’re learning quite a bit about what else is happening in the body from prune consumption. A recently published study out of Liverpool, England further validated earlier research that prunes as a snack are satiating, meaning they help you feel full longer; thus, they may be a useful tool in the weight management toolbox. Other recent research reported that daily prune consumption could help improve risk factors for cardiovascular disease in postmenopausal women by increasing “good” cholesterol (aka HDL), lowering inflammation, and increasing antioxidant capacity. Further, we are expecting to learn that prunes may qualify as a prebiotic because of the beneficial changes they cause in the gut. We’re also learning from unpublished animal studies that prunes may inhibit cancer growth in the colon (or large intestine). As we continue down the research path laid out in the Nutrition Research Roadmap we will continue to learn more and more about the power of prunes.
5. What are you most excited about in the coming months?
I am anxiously anticipating all of the research results from Dr. De Souza’s work coming out of Penn State. This is the largest prune consumption clinical study to date with approximately 200 postmenopausal women. We will learn more about how prunes exert beneficial effects on bone including what is happening with the gut-bone connection, as well as more on prunes and inflammation, and whether there is a prune effect on body composition and metabolic disease risk.
I’m also excited about a couple of animal studies that we expect to be published in the coming year that provides insight into whether prunes can be considered a prebiotic. I believe this will give us a lot of traction with consumers given prebiotics are definitely on-trend.
6. What is your favorite prune recipe?
Tough to say as I am discovering more and more yummy prune recipes. I created my own recipe using prune puree in place of ½ the oil to bake coconut and walnut oatmeal cookies. They are delicious! My next prune recipe try will be a simple one with whole-grain bread, peanut butter, sliced bananas, and diced prunes. I haven’t figured out the name yet so stay tuned.
Two Published Nutrition Research Studies
With much to be thankful for this season, the California Prune Board has two clinical studies that were recently published in scientific journals. New research on satiety from Liverpool, England found that prunes may help reign in cravings – perfect timing for holiday temptations. Additionally, a new study from San Diego State University conducted by Shirin Hooshmand and Mark Kern shows prunes have a promising effect on men’s bone health.
California Prunes – Under the Influence!
The holiday season is upon us, and there is no better time to share beautiful, delicious, and health-conscious recipes! California Prunes recently launched its Holiday Influencer Program to demonstrate how prunes can amplify holiday flavors and make baked goods healthier by using prune puree to swap out some of the refined sugar, eggs, or fats in recipes.
This exciting new recipe content from influencers, influential RDs, and digital media groups including Cherry Bombe and Bake from Scratch will be published during the holiday season and throughout January. Created to inspire their audiences, these recipes will encourage the use of California Prunes as a tasty and nutritious, high-quality ingredient in their baking and cooking, while educating them on the many health benefits of using prunes including gut and bone health.
We’ve gotten some sneak peeks at what’s coming in the weeks ahead and we are so excited for the new recipes! Bake from Scratch created a delicious Chocolate Prune Olive Oil Cake with Silky Chocolate Frosting, and Cherry Bombe hosted a Zoom cooking class where participants learned how to make an old-fashioned Fruit Cake loaded with California Prunes.
California Prunes also sent “Surprise and Delight” packages to 35 influencers containing snack-sized packages of prunes and gourmet items to pair with them including flavored salt, dark chocolate, and a bottle of Bay Leaf Shrub. Included in the package was a recipe and information card with the health benefits of prunes and instructions on how to make and use California Prune Puree.
All of the participating influencers are thrilled to create recipes with California Prunes and we can’t wait for you to see what they’ve come up with. This holiday season is shaping up to be a very delicious one!
Watch: Why California is a Great Place to Grow Prunes
Did you catch the new videos created to celebrate California Farmer and Farmworker Month in October? They showcase some amazing prune growers who share why California is a great place to grow prunes, and why they got into ag.
California Prunes Celebrate Success of Brand Logo Integration Globally
The adoption of the California Prunes brand logo on packaging has taken hold around the world. As demand for California Prunes continues to grow, licensing requests for use of the brand logo on packages containing 100% California Prunes are gaining traction.
National and private label brands from the United States, Canada, Japan, and China now carry the California Prunes logo on packages for over 63 SKUs indicating to consumers that California equates to premium quality.
“Point of origin is increasingly more important for shoppers who want to know where their food comes from. Foods from California are recognized as being healthy, high quality, safe, wholesome, and delicious,” said Kiaran Locy, Director of Brand & Industry Communications, California Prune Board
California Prune Board market research indicates that six in ten consumers often check to see if the prunes they purchase are from California. Furthermore, nearly half of international consumers singled out California/USA as the origin they would prefer to buy when shopping for prunes. The California Prunes logo transforms a statement of origin into a reflection of market leadership.
“Our brand and identity are heavily informed by research and created very intentionally. The logo strongly reflects the California point of origin and is supported by a comprehensive marketing program rooted in leading nutrition scientific research,” said Locy.
Locy adds that the California Prune Board is also dedicated to crop research that further supports the industry’s efforts to provide consistent and sustainable fruit year after year.
Shoppers worldwide recognize California Prunes as bigger, juicier, better tasting, and of the best quality. These one-of-a-kind characteristics for California Prunes are due to the ideal growing climate, craftsmanship passed down from generations of families, a perfected drying system, and the most stringent agriculture standards of any other nation – making California the world’s most trusted producer of prunes.
Editors Wowed by California Prunes
On September 15 and 22, California Prunes was showcased in an activation at Culinary House – a food-focused event where brands are invited to speak with and demo their product with editors and writers. Our activation consisted of a nutrition 101 presentation from California Prunes consultant and RD, Leslie Bonci, a pairing experience led by Chef Kat Turner from Highly Likely Café in Los Angeles, and a prune jam cooking demo where editors were given the chance to build their own toasts featuring prune jam and several other ingredients from the paring exercise. In total, we had 14 editors in attendance representing outlets including Good Housekeeping, Good Morning America, Tastemade, Today, Prevention, Women’s Health, Men’s Health, Food Network, Shape, BuzzFeed, Food & Wine, Delish, and more.
Add Prunes to Your Holiday Table
Your Guide to Healthier Holiday Baking
Easy Prune Purée Adds Big Rewards
Whether you are trying to reduce refined sugar, cut unhealthy fats, or simply make healthier baked goods, California Prunes and Prune Purée are ingredients more and more bakers are relying on to enhance their cakes, cookies, muffins, and more.