California raisin growers are arming themselves for what they see is an attempt by the maker of Craisins, Ocean Spray Cranberries, to take away a chunk of their market share through a “Craisins-Raisins Challenge.”

“We have to blunt Craisins’ attempt to grab market share by increasing doubts about Craisins,” said Dan Barber, general manager of the Sacramento office of Fleishman-Hillard, a public relations firm.

Barber was among speakers for a San Joaquin Valley Grape Symposium in Easton that also included a look at the need to remain on guard against Pierce’s Disease and the glassy-winged sharpshooter, talk of agricultural theft, a presentation on pruning and fruitfulness of dried-on-the vine raisin cultivars, a talk on using potassium sprays to advance maturity in raisin grapes and discussion of health and nutrition research on raisins.

Growers of raisin grapes will pay an additional $5 per ton in the coming year to finance a response to the Ocean Spray effort and to tout the healthfulness and all-natural characteristics of California sun-dried raisins, said Larry Blagg, senior vice president for marketing with the Fresno-based California Raisin Marketing Board.

The board hopes to raise about $1.5 million for its anti-Craisins war chest.

About mid-February, the board plans to launch a website that will highlight differences between the two consumer snacks, Blagg said.

Barber said the website will point out that Craisins are highly-processed cranberries to which sugar – as much as 40 percent of the final product – is added.

He said it’s also expected that a video of a “moms” focus group will be used. A portion of that video, shown at the Easton meeting, indicated the moms were at first enamored of the Craisins, and then became concerned when they learned of the added sweetening.

“It looks like they’re healthy,” Blagg said. “That’s a myth we have to debunk.” Blagg said, for example, that antioxidant values, a key to raisin nutrition, are lost as cranberries are processed into Craisins.

It’s not the first time raisin growers have locked horns with Ocean Spray. In June 1989 the Associated Press wrote of the launch of Craisins and protests from the California Raisin Advisory Board at that time. Members of the board complained the Craisins promotion was capitalizing on millions spent to build the raisin image as a healthy dried fruit.