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Raisin the stakes in 2023: South African sultanas take the lead as the New Year ingredient

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Sultanas are natural powerhouses, packed with full of fibre, iron, calcium and antioxidants, and a popular addition to breakfast cereals, snack and baked goods. Pic: Beuna Vista Images
Sultanas are natural powerhouses, packed with full of fibre, iron, calcium and antioxidants, and a popular addition to breakfast cereals, snack and baked goods. Pic: Beuna Vista Images

Related tags sultanas Raisins South Africa

South African sultanas are being pitched as the ideal Veganuary ingredient for both short-lived New Year’s resolutions and the longer-term consumer push to improve health via a better-for-you diet.

UK-based nonprofit Raisins South Africa – the mouthpiece of a new and transformed industry, in collaboration with government and other relevant stakeholder – has embarked on a campaign to highlight the many benefits of South African-grown and produced sultanas – and just how the dried grape ticks all the boxes for consumers looking to reduce their meat consumption and swap in healthy and tasty alternative ingredients.

A baker's friend

Raisin bread Yuki Kondo
Pic: GettyImages

Sultanas are a big addition in baked goods, as well as in snack bars and cereals, adding a naturally sweeter taste profile that imparts “a caramelised, honeylike flavour and a softer, plumper texture that is less chewy and easy to eat”,​ said Raisins South Africa.

It added that, with health experts recommending a mix of both fresh and dried fruit to make up a healthy diet in 2023, South African (SA) sultanas provide a natural, cost-effective boost to the healthy-eating mix.

Sultanas are naturally sun-dried grapes, grown in the Orange and Olifants river regions of South Africa.

The Northern Cape Province accounts for at least 88% of the total annual production, while the Western Cape accounts for the remaining 12%.

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 normally dry, sunny climate, along with the ample supply of water from the rivers, makes ideal growing conditions to produce the highest quality raisins with world-leading shelf life, colour and flavour.

Sultana vs raisin?

Sultanas vs raisins Rosette Jordaan
Pic: GettyImages

A sultana differs from a raisin in that it is golden in colour and tends to be plumper, and juicier, but both are produced from the same grape. A sultana is considered a natural powerhouse, full of fibre, iron, calcium and antioxidants. These nutrients have been heightened through the extraction of water – meaning consumers can eat less to achieve one of their 5-a-day.

They feature low-to-no residues, making them a preferred origin of supply, while boasting a 12-month shelf-life and world-leading colour and flavour profile.

“We know that consumers put a special emphasis on their diets in the new year, and that the popularity of meat-free trends like Veganuary means they are seeking out alternative ingredients that are both tasty and healthy,” ​said Ferdie Botha, CEO of Raisins South Africa.

“SA Sultanas meet these needs and we will be keen to encourage consumers to discover these wonderful products and to see them as a long-term addition to their shopping baskets.”

The SA Sultanas marketing campaign for 2023 focuses on trade and social media activity, accentuating the key differences between sultanas and other raisins, while highlighting to both buyers and consumers the wide variety of benefits offered by South African product.

Fast facts

The three main varieties are Merbein Seedless, Sultana Seedless and Selma Pete, but other varieties include Sugra 39 and Flame Seedless. The main product produced is Thompsons, Goldens, SA Sultana (previously known as WP) and Orange River (OR Sultana).

There are 700 growers of South African raisins, maintaining over 1,000 farms.

There are seven main processors of South African raisins: the big four represent 85% of the total industry, two mid-size packers (14%) and one small but very focused supplier (1%)

Average temperatures during harvesting/drying period are very warm and dry, ranging from 33-38°C.

9.5% of South African dried fruit is exported to the UK market, the 2nd​ biggest importer of South African raisins, behind Germany.

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