The California Raisin Marketing Board sets out again to find the best of the best, this time with a twist.


When a movie turns into a blockbuster, the studio doesn’t just sit on its laurels. Rather, it does what any good business does in that situation. It begins working on a sequel that, hopefully, will be as good or better than the first one.
    Raising the bar on last year’s inaugural American Best Raisin Bread Contest will be no easy task, but this year’s event, sponsored by the California Raisin Marketing Board, offers a few new twists.
    First, the Second Annual America’s Best Raisin Bread Contest starts on March 16, which is an earlier date than last year to give contestants more time to dream up their best raisin bread ideas. Specifically, the first part of the contest will run from March 16 through August 15.
    To encourage the broadest possible number of applications, the contest is open to bakers and R&D staff of commercial baking companies, craft bakers, retail bakery shop owners, certified baking teachers, registered students and bakery technicians working in allied industries such as bakery supply wholesalers, flour milling companies and bakery ingredient suppliers.
    To qualify, submitted formulas should be for raisin bread products currently available in the market or for products planned for sale in the future. The Fresno, Calif.-based company is not looking for showpieces, but rather it is seeking the best raisin breads possible based on taste, value for money and originality. Applications must be filled out in baker’s percentages. No one person can submit more than three entries, and applicants also must provide color photos of the whole finished loaf and a cut cross section. 
    In the United States, the legal standard of identity for raisin bread is 50% of raisin content to dry flour weight. This is the minimum acceptable content level for all contestants. But it should be pointed out that contestants may use whole natural raisins, golden raisins, raisin paste and/or raisin juice concentrate to reach the minimum 50% content level.
    This year, finals will be held again at the American Institute of Baking on October 9-10, and the contest will feature two new prizes for students of certified bakery programs at the college and technical school levels. In the student category, one prize will be in the artisan category and the other will be in the commercial production category. These new prizes will be in addition to the five winning ones for artisan bakers and five prizes for commercial bakers, along with a repeat of the California study tour.
    Once again, competition is expected to be tough. In fact, Patrick Finney, the 2008 grand-prize winner in the commercial category for his unique Salsa Latina Raisin Bread, said he plans to enter and go for a two-peat.
    “Oh, for sure, we definitely plan to enter the contest,” said Finney, vice president of innovation for Roman Meal, Tacoma, Wash. “Without a doubt each of us at Roman Meal Co. realizes this win [was] truly an honor.”
    From March 24-29, Finney and the other winners of last year’s contest will be touring California as a part of their prize. The tour will include seeing the California raisin production region, visiting with packers, a trip to Yosemite and a visit with baking lecturers at the Culinary Institute of Baking in Napa Valley.
    All winners attending will sample the best of California cuisine and California wines, as well.
    The California Raisin Marketing Board encourages all bakers and bakery students in the United States and Canada to enter its second annual contest.

Editor’s Note: The California Raisin Marketing Board supplied information for this article. For additional details on the contest and to obtain an application starting on March 16, visit