The Raisins The Sun-Maid

Where would this blog be without a massive infusion of dried fruits? From sun-soaked South Africa to the mediteranean climes of California dried fruits have been sent out to the entire world. Without them where would be the the Plum Pudding, the Birthday Cake the Christmas Cake and the Mince Pie? These pages come from a pamphlet issued by the California Raisin Advisory Board around the late seventies, early eighties.

In 1873, Francis T. Eisen planted an experimental vineyard of Muscat grapes on 25 acres along Fancher Creek, just east of Fresno, California.

Once raisins were established as a marketable crop which grew and dried well under the Californian sun, raisin grape-growing areas expanded rapidly in the late 19th century.

Packing houses quickly became a vital link between the grower and the consumer, employing hundreds of people. These facilities received the sun-dried raisins from growers, and stored, processed, packaged, and shipped throughout the United States.

When the transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869, farmers and growers were able to quickly transport products from the West to new markets and the earliest successful efforts to form a cooperative business by raisin growers began in 1898.

By 1903 a privately owned cooperative of raisin growers had become the largest raisin and dried fruit processor in the world, producing 120 million lbs of raisins a year and was established in 1912 as the California Associated Raisin Company. In 1915, the brand name Sun-Maid, coined by advertising executive E.A. Berg and was adopted by the organization in 1922 and re-branded as the Sun-Maid Growers of California to identify more closely with its nationally recognized brand. The Sun-Maid cooperative comprised some 850 family farmers growing raisins within a 100 mile radius of the processing plant.

Packaged in a red box featuring the iconic ‘Sun-Maid Girl’ wearing a red sunbonnet, the raisins are picked at harvest time, usually late August to early September having beem dried naturally in the sun, either by hand-picking and laying them out or by allowing them to dry-on-the-vine for mechanical harvesting, after some fourteen days, they are processed, packaged and shipped to customers around the world.

Today Sun-Maid produces more than 200 million lbs of natural raisins along with line of dried fruit, such as figs, dates, cranberries, apples, prunes, apricots and tropical fruits. Sun-Maid also packs yogurt-covered raisins, such as those dipped in dark chocolate, vanilla, orange cream, strawberry-Greek and cherry-chocolate flavoured yogurt.

In 1964, further modernization and growth led to the construction of, and move to, a new facility in Kingsburg. The 640,000-square-foot facility sits on more than 100 acres some 20 miles south of Fresno. To this day, the Kingsburg plant serves as the headquarters of the Sun-Maid Growers of California.

The original “Sun-Maid Girl” was a real person named Lorraine Collett. The Sun-Maid girls promoted the raisin industry at the 1915 Panama–Pacific International Exposition by handing out raisin samples to visitors while wearing white blouses with blue piping and blue sunbonnets.

In May 1916, company executives agreed Collett would become the personification of the company.

Her image with sunbonnet and tray of grapes was updated in 1956 and again in 1970, using drawings made a decade earlier of company employee Delia von Meyer although Collett continued to make special appearances as the original Sun-Maid Girl until her death at 90.



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