Sun-Maid Raisins Outside Kingsburg
Aug 25, 2018 11:00AM
By Jordan Venema
Little Red Box
By Jordan Venema
Photos courtesy of Sun-Maid Market
THERE'S JUST SOMETHING about that little red box and the image of the woman holding a basket of grapes that takes you back to opening the lunch packed by your mother. That box of Sun-Maid raisins, for some, was not just a staple of every schoolyard snack but of their very childhood.
“We’ve recently gone through this experience where we were really trying to drill down the essence of our brand,” says Jackie Grazier, the marketing director at Sun-Maid, “and what we discovered is that people really look to us as that timeless and trusted go-to snack that is simple, healthy and versatile. People are very much connected to our brand and attached to it in a way that when they see our brand, they’re taken back to childhood.”
You could even say that Sun-Maid belongs to a handful of brands that are synonymous with childhood, brands like Cheerios or JIF, except that Sun-Maid isn’t just iconic, it’s also wholesome.
The company’s wholesome reputation might have to do with its roots as much as the raisins themselves.
Every year, Sun-Maid sells millions of its raisins around the world, and despite its global reach, the company has much more in common with that little red box. Since its founding, Sun-Maid has operated from its headquarters right here in the Central Valley.
Though Sun-Maid started in Fresno, it has since moved its headquarters south outside Kingsburg, but the company has always been locally owned by a single family. Founded in 1912 as the California Associative Raisin Company, Sun-Maid is owned collectively by its growers.
Not long after the company was founded, an employee discovered the woman who would become synonymous with Sun-Maid. As the story goes, an employee discovered Lorraine Collett Petersen in 1915, drying her black hair in her parents’ backyard in Fresno. Her likeness was later painted in San Francisco, and according to Grazier she first appeared on a Sun-Maid box in 1916.
Though the brand’s appearance changed in its early years, the company’s mode of operations did not. To this day, Sun-Maid is owned collectively by about 700 growers, and among them Grazier’s own family.
“My family were and continue to this day to be Sun-Maid growers, so I grew up in a household raised on this brand of Sun-Maid. That’s just by design,” she continues, “because to be an owner of Sun-Maid you have to be a grower, and all of the growers that own the company live within about a 60- to 80-mile radius around the plant, and deliver their raisins to the plant upon harvest.”
Which means that Sun-Maid not only belongs to its growers, but also that virtually all its raisins are California grown. And while not everything that is authentic is wholesome, it can be said that everything wholesome is authentic, and there is nothing quite so authentic as a brand true to its product.
“Sun-Maid has always been a cooperative of growers and family famers,” continues Grazier, “and people look at Sun-Maid and think we’re this gigantic brand and company, but really, we’re family farmers, and it’s always been that way. And for the most part we’re small family farmers with 20-acre parcels, 40-acre parcels. It’s really an organization made up of salt-of-the-earth people.”
Salt-of-the-earth people whose products can be purchased around the world, or locally at the Sun-Maid Market at the company’s headquarters outside Kingsburg.
“We have people visiting the market from all over the world,” looking for a branded experience “along with other farm to table food products,” says Grazier.
Beside Sun-Maid raisins, the market sells t-shirts, hats, books, key chains and other branded products, as well as candy-coated, yogurt-covered and chocolate-covered raisins, blueberries and apricots. “When you come to the Sun-Maid Market, you’re going to be able to buy raisins in bulk, and organic raisins, prunes, apricots, dates, cranberries, mangoes and chocolate and vanilla and yogurt-covered raisins,” continues Grazier.
“Also, we have a giant Sun-Maid box outside the headquarters, and people love to take pictures with that.”
Ultimately, says Grazier, people are visiting from all over the world because “they want to have that California experience.” Sun-Maid gives people a tiny slice of that, says Grazier, adding that California is the breadbasket of the world.
Which it is, and easy for locals to forget, though we should add that the Sun-Maid is more specifically the raisin basket of the world. It’s right there on the little red box. •
Sun-Maid Market • 13525 S. Bethel Ave., Kingsburg
(559) 896-8000 • www.sunmaid.com
Monday through Friday, 9am to 5pm
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