A health-conscious population – particularly fuelled by the stress of the coronavirus pandemic – are increasingly opting for sugar substitutes in foods like baked goods and snacks, which is driving the sales of raisins.
Apart from being a healthier alternative to sugar, consumers are also becoming more aware of the myriad of health benefits associated with the dried grapes, such as being rich iron, fibre, vitamins, calcium and amino acids. They also contain antioxidant compounds like polyphenols and phenols that remove the free radicals from the blood and prevent the damage of the cells; phytochemicals and boron that improve oral and bone health; and more potassium per gram than bananas.
Raisings also tick the boxes of other top-of-mind consumer concerns, such as being vegan, clean label, organic, gluten-free and non-GMO.
This is fuelling the global raisin market, expected to register a CAGR of 4.77% to reach $2,7bn by 2026.
Export standards and unemployment
Despite a challenging year, South Africa’s raisin industry remained firmly open for business throughout 2020, posting particularly strong growth in exports to the UK, the second biggest importer of South African raisings after Germany. Thompson was the most exported variety, followed by the Golden Sultana and Flame raisin.
To boost the export market, the South African Raisin industry has launched a new initiative – named Project GAPP – to ensure that best practices are formalised to grow and dry premium quality fruit.
Project GAPP will oversee the grading of raw material and develop new export standards, along with fine-tuning existing ones in co-operation with growers and processors. Audits will be performed at grower level in addition to the existing certification required at processor level, with emphasis being placed on food safety standards, chemical use, hygiene, and product traceability.
Project GAPP also aims to improve fruit drying practices and drying infrastructure, and to oversee sessions where knowledge in the production of raisins can be transferred accordingly.
The South African raisin industry is also helping to tackle the country’s rising unemployment rate during the pandemic by offering placements to inexperienced, unemployed graduates.
“The aim of the project is to accommodate our new emerging black growers or any new entrant to the marketplace to ensure that high quality standards are set in terms of product quality, food safety, micro’s, free-flowing product, and the best possible shelf life for which South African product is well known for over the past 100 years,” said Ferdie Botha, CEO of Raisins South Africa.
Raisins South Africa has partnered with the government’s Department of Agriculture, PepsiCo, Carpe Diem Raisins, Plant South Africa, the South African Plant Improvement Organisation (SAPO), Fruit Fly Africa (FFA), Vaal University of technology (VUT) and First Rand Bank (FNB) to accommodate 18 students on the two year programme.
The interns undergo on-the-job development training in technical, professional, business and life skills that are crucial for them to enter the formal job market or to start their own enterprises.
Botha added, “Currently, two of the students on the programme are working towards a master’s degree in disaster management and soil science.
“It is this type of initiative that is required between the government, private sector and industry to further grow and support the South African economy and prepare youth to add value in their future careers.”
South African raisins are produced in the Orange and Olifants River regions, in the Northern and Western Cape. These regions experience exceptional levels of sunshine – on average 10.5 hours every day – between January and March, which is when the fruit is harvested and naturally sundried. The dry, sunny climate, along with the ample supply of water from the rivers, makes ideal growing conditions to produce the raisins with world-leading shelf life, colour and flavour.