(July 10) SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California consumers like their produce identified as “Californian,” and Safeway and Vons supermarkets have responded to that preference.

Stores owned and operated by Safeway Inc., Pleasanton, including Vons supermarkets, will highlight California's fruits and vegetables by providing “California Grown” signs and danglers in all 531 supermarkets.

The Safeway chain is first to offer California Grown signage in stores statewide. Signs are in the form of a blue California license plate with yellow letters, reading “CA GROWN.”

Some of the products are identified with California Grown logos and PLU stickers. And the California Grown logo appears on many California supermarket advertising circulars.

Safeway has prominently positioned California Grown materials throughout its stores and each California grown product is identified with a California Grown sign. Safeway and Vons cover California from Crescent City in the north to Calexico at the extreme south end of the state.

Besides helping consumers know when they are buying California products, the California Grown program is expected to encourage supermarkets to carry more California grown products.

Safeway will track sales following installation of the signs and danglers and determine if the California Grown program increases produce sales, said Scott Horsfall, chief operating officer of the Buy California Marketing Agreement.

“I think retailers recognize that consumers want to buy California grown products,” Horsfall said. Retailers see the California Grown program and availability of many California fruits and vegetables as a marketing tool, he said.

The California Grown campaign is funded by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the US Department of Agriculture and numerous California-based produce commissions and boards. Initial funding of $25 million provides materials free of charge to any California supermarket that wants them, Horsfall said.

Other major marketers displaying California Grown materials include Ralph's Grocery Co., Los Angeles, Save Mart Supermarkets, Modesto, and Raley's Supermarkets, Sacramento.

Television ads are also part of the California Grown program and new commercials are being produced that will air from August to October, Horsfall said.

Based on a theme, “The Real California Consumer,” the TV ads will run in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Fresno and Sacramento.