Board: Prunes by any other name would taste sweeter

SACRAMENTO, CA: Could it be that having a reputation as nature's laxative isn't as prestigious as it seems? That was the position the California Prune Board took in its bid to rename its pet product 'dried plums' and to change its name to the California Dried Plum Board.

SACRAMENTO, CA: Could it be that having a reputation as nature's laxative isn't as prestigious as it seems? That was the position the California Prune Board took in its bid to rename its pet product 'dried plums' and to change its name to the California Dried Plum Board.

SACRAMENTO, CA: Could it be that having a reputation as nature's laxative isn't as prestigious as it seems? That was the position the California Prune Board took in its bid to rename its pet product 'dried plums' and to change its name to the California Dried Plum Board.

The newly named body plans to spend dollars 2.6 million this year with longtime PR agency Ketchum promoting its renamed product. Total spending on advertising and PR will top dollars 10 million over the next two years.

The board had been spending between dollars 1.5 million and dollars 2 million annually on PR in recent years, but supermarket sale of prunes continued to drop, said Peggy Castaldi, the board's marketing director.

Consumer testing showed the name was a turnoff for many shoppers because of the laxative-related image with which the foodstuff has been saddled.

In late 1999, the board asked the Food and Drug Administration if prune marketers could start using the term dried plums on packaging instead of prunes. Approval came last June, and the board changed its name last week.

'It's not just a name change; it's a new product,' Castaldi said.

The board is targeting women between ages 35 and 50 with its new campaign, a younger crowd than prunes' initial target of women 50 and older.

Expanded PR efforts this year include working with celebrity chefs and the Culinary Institute of America to push new recipes using dried plums, holding sampling events for consumers, and touting dried plum recipes for newspaper food pages. It has also changed its Web address to CaliforniaDriedPlums.org and has created consumer information kits using the new name.

Of that old association with prunes and intestinal issues, Castaldi said, 'The name change is more than half the battle.' With her PR efforts, she hopes to replicate the successes of sun-dried tomatoes, which saw their popularity climb after restaurants started featuring them.

And she can rattle off a host of other foods, such as kiwi fruit, that have benefited from name changes in the past.



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