Sunsweet Rides The Healthy, Portable, Convenient Snack Trend

Riding high on the coattails of the healthy snacking trend, Sunsweet Growers is set to launch its largest marketing campaign and only its second national TV campaign for its new Sunsweet Ones, individually wrapped prunes.

Touting the nutritional profile of prunes as "bite for bite, even better than fruit," the ads were shot at a farmer's market in Walnut Creek, Calif., using a mix of actors and non-actors. One person asks the others, "When's the last time you had a prune?" Not surprisingly, they say it's been a long time. "If you think a prune is a prune, you haven't tried new Sunsweet Ones," the spokesperson says. One woman opines that kids will think it's candy.

The ads were shot in the fall of 2005, and Sunsweet has spent at least a year testing the product throughout California. Steve Harris, VP of North America marketing, says sales of prunes have been up by 20% in stores such as Albertson's that carry Ones without cannibalizing other prune sales.

The campaign's focus is on the nutritional benefits prunes provide. Harris says that, ounce for ounce, prunes have the highest amount of antioxidants and nutrition density. "They are high in potassium, high in iron and, of course, a good source of fiber. As far as taste, we're doing the TV ads to show the surprise on people's faces when they realize how flavorful, juicy, moist and delicious they are."



Sunsweet Ones are wrapped in clear film with a perforated tear-off so that a consumer can pop it in her mouth and peel away the wrapper without getting her fingers sticky. The snack, packaged in a seven-ounce canister and retailing for $2.99, contains roughly 20 prunes. It is aimed at women as a convenient, healthy, non-perishable and portable snack.

According to Packaged Facts, publishing division of, in 2005, the packaged-fruit category recorded sales worth $2.5 billion, compared to 2004 sales of $2.3 billion, posting 5% growth. "This growth is attributed to the trend toward consuming convenient easy-to-carry and healthy fruit products," it says. Dried fruit was the second-largest growing sub-category and posted a 9% sales increase, rising from $477.5 million in 2004 to $520.8 million in 2005. The packaged fruit category is estimated to reach $3.9 billion in sales by 2010.

Following that trend, Sunsweet is working to change the perception of prunes, which it also calls dried plums, among the members of the younger generation, who may see prunes as only for older people with digestive woes. Harris points out that, while consumers have readily taken to 100-calorie snacks, "they are cookies and crackers, not many fruit options. You can eat four to five prunes and consume only 60 calories." Getting that message out is part of the public relations effort Sunsweet is undertaking besides the TV ads. It also will conduct in-store sampling.

The ads, created by Nice Advertising, San Francisco, will break at the beginning of April and run through June on national and cable TV programs aimed at women such as HGTV, daytime TV and, later, fringe and new shows. Harris declined to say how much the company will spend on the Ones campaign. According to Nielsen Monitor-Plus, Sunsweet spent $8.7 million on advertising in 2006, up an incredible 132% over 2005, when it spent $3.7 million. Harris says spending had been down substantially following two consecutive years of crop disasters.

Sunsweet Ones are being tested in Italy with plans to roll out throughout Europe if all goes well.

The company, owned by a 400-plus member/grower marketing cooperative, is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year. It produces one-third of the world's prunes.

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