The California Table Grape Commission is entering its second season of televised marketing with the Food Network. A broader outreach effort also includes print and Web ads with the network and other media outlets.

“We’ve got ads and advertorials in Food Network Magazine,” said Jim Howard, vice president of the Fresno, Calif.-based commission.

“That is now the No. 1 in newsstand sales for the food category, with 1.3 million readers.”

Commercials will air during Food Network programming throughout the season, Howard said.

The network’s website has a section devoted to “Grapes from California,” with recipes, videos and nutrition and health information, at

Commission members also are taking their message on the road. They hosted a reception for food writers and editors June 1-4 at the annual International Association of Culinary Professionals conference in Austin, Texas.

Next up was Food Fete — — on June 28 in New York.

“It’s like speed dating for food writers,” Howard said of Food Fete.

“You get 150 or so members of the food press in a room, with about 25 to 50 exhibitors. The writers come through and go from table to table and talk to people about their product. We tried it last year, and it was a great, efficient way to meet 150 food writers in New York in a few hours.”

At such conferences and meetings, the commission distributes its own glossy publication.

“It’s a new magazine that focuses on seven award-winning chefs from around the country and how they use grapes from California,” Howard said.

“The chefs are all featured in our Food Network commercials as well.”

The commission’s sports promotion will continue to offer “Grapes from California” days at Major League Baseball stadiums. But retailers who win the contests now will get a shot at seeing other sports, Howard said.

That’s just as well, with baseball ending in October while California’s grape deal goes through December or January.

“We did a pilot project last year with some baseball parks around the country,” Howard said.

“It was an integrated marketing campaign. One component for retailers was volume contests, and the prize was VIP tickets to a baseball game. With some retailers, that was the greatest thing in the world. But some weren’t baseball fans.”

Baseball stadium stops last year included Los Angeles, Baltimore, San Francisco, St. Louis and Toronto.

“All winners of regional volume contests will win tickets to baseball, NASCAR, hockey or the sporting event of their choice,” he said.

“There will be VIP seating and acknowledgment at the game for them.”

The commission works around contest schedules created by retailers.

The contests began in June.

“It used to be that display contests were a good way to push grapes,” Howard said.

“The local produce members did lavish displays. A few years ago, you’d see very elaborate designs. We’d get huge lifts in volume for those.

“But so many retailers have tightened up guidelines on how they want their section to look. A lot say a display contest just doesn’t work. So now it’s volume contests — who has the largest percentage lift in the same period for grapes over the last year. How they get that increase is up to the produce managers.”