With more than 150 years of experience, California’s prune growers have developed best practices that produce world-class fruit and generate more than $200 million in farm gate value every year.
The state’s rich valley soil, favorable climate and “California Grown” pride also allow the state’s plum growers to perfect their craft, very evident in the sweetness, ideal size, and fine texture that makes the fruit a healthy snack and versatile culinary ingredient.
Covering around 47,000 acres, the prune industry may not be as large as that of walnut and almond growers. But prune producers are able to meet most of the demand in the United States and sell nearly half of their produce overseas. In 2016, California’s prune industry shipped around 7,300 metric tons of the fruit to Japan, its largest overseas market where it has a 98 percent market share.
Because of their premium quality, California prunes have found long-standing and loyal customers in Japan, which is known for its discriminating standards regarding the freshness and quality of its food.
“From orchard practices to pitting and drying, our process follows a system that aims for perfection. Our long-standing position as Japan’s prune supplier of choice requires that we meet unique specifications for moisture and other standards. Japan is a cornerstone of our business and we appreciate the loyalty that the trade and consumers have shown us in return,” said California Prune Board (CPB) Executive Director Donn Zea.
Working with its long-time partner in Japan, Uniflex Marketing, Inc., the CPB is working with nutrition experts to help inform Japanese consumers about the health benefits of including prunes in their daily diet, not only as snacks and juice, but also as an ingredient in baking and other applications.
In its preparations for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Japan’s food and hospitality industries are also looking at ways to meet the dietary needs of foreign visitors and produced a “Special Menus Guidebook” that feature prunes in a dozen sample menus.
“California prunes have been a favorite in Japan for generations. We know there are many food options out there and consumers of all ages are making decisions that best fit their needs and lifestyles. We’re listening to our customers and providing market support that helps the consumer make informed choices.
If we’re successful we’re confident that the Japanese consumer will continue to choose California prunes,” Donn said.