California Prune Board hopes manufacturers and bakers will switch to the dried fruit

California Prune Board ambassador Jo Travers

California Prune Board ambassador Jo Travers

Image: California Prune Board

The California Prune Board (CPB) is championing the use of dried fruit by food manufacturers and commercial bakers as a natural alternative to processed sugar.

The new marketing approach follows the publication of a University of Southampton study earlier this year that revealed almost one in four children aged 10 and 11 in England are obese. The study, published in the journal PLOS One, involved the analysis of more than one million children.

The CPB is stressing that using naturally sweet California Prunes as a sugar and even fat replacement in foods can further benefit food manufacturers looking to improve the nutritional profile of products.

Prunes have a proven European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) health claim thanks to the fibre they contain, which states that eating 100g of prunes daily contributes to normal bowel function. Meanwhile, several studies point to the positive effects prunes can have on bone health, and more recently how they can help reduce abdominal fat and the risk for cardiovascular disease.

Furthermore, the CPB notes, a recent white paper supported by Whitworths also outlines the benefits of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit as a convenient and healthy alternative to high-fat, salt, and sugar snacks and a tasty way to increase fibre and micronutrient intake.

Esther Ritson-Elliott, director of international marketing and communications for the CPB, says: “The good news is that consumers are becoming increasingly aware of what goes into their food. According to Euromonitor International’s Voice of the Consumer: Health and Nutrition Survey 2023, around 35 per cent of UK respondents avoid sugar because they have read or heard that consuming it is harmful.

“As a good source of fibre and a range of vitamins and minerals and containing only natural sugars, California Prunes present bakers and manufacturers with a functional ingredient that can add sweetness, texture and moisture without compromising on taste.”

Registered dietitian and nutritionist Jo Travers added: “Naturally occurring sugars in dried fruits don’t have the same effect on the body’s blood sugar levels that added sugar does, as naturally occurring sugars are bound up in the cell wall of plants, altering the way and rate that the body absorbs the sugar. Once sugar is isolated from the cell walls, however, such as in fruit juice for example, it becomes a free sugar and is then absorbed in a similar way to table sugar.”