Califonia Bountiful

Popular fruit has rich taste and history

The pomegranate is seeing a rebirth, thanks to some pretty innovative marketing ideas.

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Throughout the ages, the pomegranate has been revered globally as a symbol of health, fertility and rebirth. This rich, red, round fruit appears in the Bible, in ancient tombs and in literature. Ancient Egyptians were even buried with pomegranates because they were a symbol of life after death.

But today it's the pomegranate that's seeing a rebirth, thanks to some pretty innovative marketing ideas. For example:

Named the place for San Francisco's best happy hour, Hotel Vitale's Americano Restaurant and Bar serves up drink after drink for the city's white collar elite, all looking for a little relief after work. And that relief often comes in the form of sweetly flavored cocktails. This isn't your average drink. It has a pop to it, thanks to a special ingredient.

"Pomegranate juice has become our top seller," Eric Day, a bartender at Americano Bar, said. "The last few years, nothing is hotter. It seems like people can't get enough of the stuff."

The pomegranate-inspired libations weren't just whipped up by accident. They were the invention of California's largest pomegranate producer--POM Wonderful. The Central Valley company was launched in 2000 as a way to use up hundreds of acres of pomegranates that no one quite knew what to do with. So following in the tradition of turning lemons into lemonade, it did just that by turning unwanted pomegranates into a new hit - pomegranate juice.

"When we first started talking to retailers they said there really is no business here. 'Why should we support pomegranates?' And that was really the point. Nobody was really doing anything with pomegranates--a wonderful fruit," said Kurt Vetter, POM Wonderful vice president of sales.

Today POM Wonderful has more than 6,000 acres of pomegranates and has helped make California the top pomegranate state in the nation. Seizing on the popularity, it has expanded its products to include juices, teas and fresh fruit. Competition is sprouting up everywhere. Last year, 350 new beverages using pomegranates hit the market.

The result of all those pom-tinis and pom-inspired dishes is a big one. Americans consume 10 times as many pomegranates as they did before POM Wonderful started its marketing push. Popularity of the pomegranate keeps flowing along as more people re-discover the beauty of this ancient fruit.

"POM Wonderful has made a long-term commitment to the pomegranate industry. They've doubled the acreage of pomegranates and have found many intriguing uses for pomegranate juice. They've committed to doing the research that's helping us all understand the very unique components and capabilities of pomegranates," said Tom Tjerandsen of the Pomegranate Council of California.

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