Sun-Maid execs shine light on year’s growth

Sun-Maid boasts its achievements for the year at its annual meeting in Fresno, including the expansion of its product line and an award for best company management

(Rigo Moran)
Serena Bettis
Published December 7, 2023  • 
9:00 am

KINGSBURG – At its annual meeting, the Sun-Maid Growers of California celebrated a year of growth and reflected on the economic challenges it faced throughout 2023. 

According to a press release from the farmer’s cooperative, the meeting on Dec. 2 was themed “These are the Golden Days” to represent Sun-Maid’s outlook on the past year. In a statement to the Mid Valley Times, Sun-Maid President and COO Steve Luftus said Sun-Maid was recognized as a U.S. Best Managed Company by Deloitte Private for the fourth year in a row, putting it at a “Gold Standard” level. 

“We are very proud of the Gold Standard achievement, as Sun-Maid is one of only a few companies to ever receive the honor,” Luftus said. “We married the achievement with our golden raisin product line to come up with this year’s annual meeting theme: ‘These are the Golden Days.’”

The Best Managed Company award is sponsored by Deloitte Private and The Wall Street Journal and recognizes companies for their contributions, achievements and how well they are run, according to the Deloitte website. Private companies based and headquartered in the United States that have a minimum revenue of $250 million are eligible to apply for the award; honorees are judged based on strategy, culture, execution and governance/financials.

Founded in 1912 as The California Associated Raisin Company, Sun-Maid was started by a group of raisin growers in the San Joaquin Valley. Its corporate headquarters are based in Fresno, with one of its main processing plants based in Kingsburg, according to the company’s website. 

Beyond the easily-recognizable red boxes of raisins, Sun-Maid offers yogurt-covered raisins, a “fruity raisin snack” product and other dried fruits — including prunes, apricots, dates and figs. 

Alongside the celebration of achievements, Sun-Maid recognized the challenges it has faced over the last year and informed its growers of the steps it is taking to maintain growth through widespread economic hardship. Luftus said the main challenge has been economic instability and persistent inflation, “which has continued to govern where and how consumers are choosing to spend their dollars.”

“Ensuring consumers are putting dollars aside for snacks and recipes alike is more important than ever as they are navigating a noisy marketplace and stricter budgets,” Luftus said. 

Sun-Maid plans to continue diversifying its product portfolio with dried fruits and other snacking options to strengthen its economic position, the press release said. Luftus added that Sun-Maid recently added two new products, including dried mangos and dried mixed berries, and has a handful of other, yet-to-be-announced new products that will hit the shelves in 2024. 

Luftus said Sun-Maid has also worked to address these economic challenges with marketing campaigns for back-to-school and holidays that focus on the benefits of the products and their uses for both snacking and “special occasion” needs, such as in baking and with salads. 

Another highlight for the meeting was two consecutive years of sales growth for Plum, PBC, an organic baby food company that Sun-Maid acquired from Campbell Soup Company in 2021. The press release said business highlights for Plum this year included a full rebrand and package design that focuses on transparency around product ingredients. 

“Sun-Maid has always been seen as a ‘go-to’ for snacking,” Luftus said. “As the competitive landscape changes, we are always looking for ways to incorporate more better-for-you options for our core audience — families and kids.”

Serena Bettis
General Assignment Reporter