With the assistance of American bakers, bread quality and California Raisins can be leveraged worldwide.

By Larry Blagg
In the past 10 days, I’ve been fortunate enough to participate in and visit baking schools and research facilities in the United States, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea. Amazingly, every school shares their lecturers, research and formulas. It’s also remarkable that they collaborate on articles published to further the knowledge of baking science and provide practical tips in the daily world of artisan and commercial baking.

On June 27, the Japan Institute of Baking in Tokyo hosted its 18th Annual California Raisin New Products Development Contest for 22 finalists from among a record-setting 269 entries.

Simultaneously, the SuWon Women’s School Baking Department in Inchon, Korea and the Korean Baking Association hosted its 3rd Annual California Raisin New Products Development contest, where an additional 54 entries were received with 20 finalists in their bake-off.

Furthermore, at the Taipei Baking Association’s annual trade show on March 29, another 12 finalists from among 52 bakers competed in their 1st Annual California Raisin Bread and Pastry Bake-off.

That’s right! An incredible 375 North Asian bakers created new formulas utilizing California Raisins.

Is it any surprise that the bakers and their amazing breads have helped them to become Gold and Silver Medalists in the Coupe Du Monde de la Boulangerie competition in Paris over the past six years?

On August 21, the 19 total winners, along with a delegation of educators and press, will descend on the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in the Napa Valley for lectures and a chance to compare their prize-winning formulas with top bakers and pastry chefs. The following day, the Asian winners will take over the CIA’s bakery and produce their winning formulas for all to share.

All of these bakers view the California Raisin-sponsored events as an opportunity to step up on the world stage and show that they are among the best craftsmen and women in the baking world. Meanwhile, the California Raisin industry has plans to extend the overseas contests into China and the United Kingdom in 2010.

Are you artisan and commercial bakers, bakery technicians and baking teachers and students ready to prove that Americans can rise to the challenge?

Between now and August 16, the 2nd Annual America’s Best Raisin Bread Contest will be wrapping up, and several of last year’s winners have already turned in their next batch of formulas, as have a number of new entrants. You too can show your skill and gain recognition as a top baker here in the United States.

With the assistance of the best talent in America, it is hoped that bread quality can be leveraged worldwide. Help make that dream a reality, and not only will your company benefit, but consumers in North America also will be the ultimate winners when these new products go to market.

Editor’s Note: Larry Blagg is senior vice president of marketing for the California Raisin Marketing Board, Fresno, Calif. Interested participants for the America’s Best Raisin Bread Contest should send their applications to Theresa Cogswell by August 15. Or visit www.loveyourraisins.com to receive additional information.