(June 5) REEDLEY, Calif. — Servers will dish up stone fruit samples to Canadian supermarket customers thanks to a $495,000 grant provided to the California Tree Fruit Agreement through a Buy California program.

The grant, which will also help pay for a television advertising campaign in Mexico and consumer research in Japan and China, comes from the new California International Market Promotion for Agriculture competitive grant program.

“The grant will be a huge help to the industry,” said Blair Richardson, president of the tree fruit agreement. “It will help us maintain and expand international markets.”

David Miller, director of international programs for the agreement, said the bulk of the grant money, about $305,000, will go to supermarket sampling of peaches, nectarines and plums in Canada. Sampling will start in late June, Miller said.

Sampling programs are expensive, so the grant will be a big help, he said. Sampling runs about $125 per day per store, not counting the cost of the fruit used, he added.

About $100,000 of the grant will go to a Mexican television commercial that will introduce Mexican consumers to nectarines, white-fleshed summer fruit and newer plum varieties, Miller said.

Mexicans are familiar with peaches and small plums, but have had little exposure to nectarines and white-fleshed fruit, he said.

The commercial should air in major Mexican markets in mid-July, Miller said.

The remainder of the grant money will go to consumer research in Japan and China, he said. The agreement wants to know how the Japanese view white-fleshed nectarines.

The Chinese market has not opened yet, but the agreement wants to get a head start by setting up focus groups to study preferences, Miller said.