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Calif. Raisins Stage Return, Sans Dancing

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NEW YORK Raisins were last seen dancing in TV spots in the 1980s. But the California Raisin Marketing Board's new "Wise choices" campaign will give the fruit a loftier Zen twist, touting them as a convenient, wholesome snack that delivers quick energy for healthy lifestyles.

The Fresno, Calif., CRMB, an industry trade group for raisin growers and marketers like Sun-Maid, said it is committing $4.6 million behind a marketing budget that includes print, via MeringCarson, Sacramento, Calif., a Web site, banner ads, consumer sweepstakes and a satellite media tour by celebrity fitness trainer Valerie Waters. California grows about 99.5 percent of the U.S. raisins consumed.

The first of three full-page print executions will break next week in general and women's titles. One ad shows a woman sitting in a yoga pose in a vineyard. The headline: "Wheresoever you go, go with a tasty snack."

The effort comes as the raisin industry is rebounding from a sales slump at the height of the low-carb trend, which eschewed the fruit's consumption due to its natural sugar content. Sales were down 5.4 percent to $195 million for the year ended Aug. 14, 2004, per ACNielsen.

The new "Wise choices" effort veers away from the board's long-running "Look who's cooking" campaign, which focused on raisins as a cooking ingredient. Still, that campaign paid off: sales shot up 10.6 percent to $225 million for the year ended Aug. 12, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus. Raisins also got a boost from the USDA's revised dietary guidelines last year that advised Americans to increase fruit consumption.

"Consumers are more aware of health-related issues but are busier than ever before," said Sam Horsfall of the CRMB. "Consumers know that raisins are natural, tasty, portable and versatile but aren't aware of raisins' significant nutritional attributes nor their ability to supply quick energy."

Ads will drive consumers to LoveYourRaisins.com, a one-stop resource for recipes, nutritional information and special offers, the first of which will be a sweepstakes that offers a California weekend spa getaway and "Wise choices" on-the-go goodie bags.