Ocean Spray doubles plant capacity as cranberries soar

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Ocean spray Cranberry

Strong demand for cranberry-based ingredients for functional foods
has led co-operative Ocean Spray to double production capacity at
its plant in Middleboro, Massachusetts.

The capacity increase is part of a move to boost the company's new product development capability, said Ocean Spray Ingredient Technology Group (ITG) today.

"As consumer demand for functional foods shows no sign of abating, manufacturers are continuing to seek new and healthy ingredients - and we are gearing up accordingly,"​ said the company's vice president Rob Beams.

The company said its capacity expansion will allow customers to benefit from faster turnaround times. Start up for the new capacity is planned in early May 2006.

The Middleboro plant, which manufactures the company's new BerryFusions fruits range, was first opened in January 2005.

According to the company, since that date sales of its cranberry ingredients have reached a "record high."

Indeed, Ocean Spray recently took heart from the findings of a small study, which confirmed the health properties of dried cranberries.

Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston found that the company's Craisins sweetened dried cranberries had similar anti-bacterial effects as cranberry juice in the treatment of urinary tract infections.

Ocean Spray is confident the research "is set to broaden the cranberry's well-established health message into new applications, including baked goods, cereals and trail mix."

The popularity of cranberries has been increasing in recent years as a combination of strong marketing campaigns and a body of scientific evidence revealing the fruit's health benefits have contributed to growing consumer awareness and interest in the product.

The fruit has long been considered an effective method of fighting urinary tract infections, something that has led to almost one third of parents in the US giving it to their children, according to a recent study.

In 2004 France became the first country to approve a health claim for the North American cranberry species vaccinium macrocarpon, which states that it can 'help reduce the adhesion of certain E.coli bacteria to the urinary tract walls'.

Initially the claim was only valid for products using the fruit concentrate or extract in powder form as it required daily consumption of 36mg, but in February last year it was extended to juice drinks or cordials with a minimum of 27 percent cranberry, with 300ml consumed each day.

And in 2004, further evidence emerged to demonstrate the fruit's positive effect on heart health. The study, presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Society's Annual Congress in Calgary, showed that the cranberry improves circulation by increasing the level of HDL, or good cholesterol and acting as a powerful antioxidant.

The US and Canada currently produce about 7 to 7.6 million 100-pound barrels of cranberries every year, and the figure is "growing steadily,"​ according to Chris Phillips, an Ocean Spray spokesperson.

The company, which reported gross sales in the region of $1.4 billion in 2004, claims to produce around two thirds of the nation's cranberries.

"We are growing as a company, partly because of the health benefits of the cranberry, which is a major platform for growth. It has clearly become a stronger part of our marketing message than before as it is our responsibility as market leader to interpret some of the sound science being published,"​ said Phillips.

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