Consumer demand for cranberries fuels shortage fears

By Alex McNally

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Ocean spray Cranberry

Ocean Spray has played down fears of a shortage in cranberries due
to bad weather - and has said the harvest has been virtually the
same as last year.

The firm said that any shortfall felt in the run-up to Christmas is due to a soaring consumer demand in the healthy red berry.

According to the Wall Street Journal, there could be a lack of the red fruit by Christmas through bad weather and increased demand.

The journal says an unseasonably warm winter and droughts in summer damaged the crop.

Canned sauce, bottled juice and dried cranberry snacks will be available, but prices are expected to rise in coming weeks and months, the journal said.

However, Ocean Spray - which is said to produce two-thirds of cranberries in the US - said the harvest had not been damaged, but instead fears of shortages are because of an increase in consumer demand.

A spokesperson added that the harvest has been " virtually the same " as last year and feared shortages were down to consumers' increase interest in the berries.

"Demand for the crop is growing as it is for other functional foods," she said.

The news reinforces the buoyancy of the cranberry market and will be seen as encouraging sign to industry.

Cranberries can be found in more than 2,000 products and have been gaining a wealth of support for their healthy benefits.

The average retail price of a 12-ounce package of fresh cranberries rose eight cents this year to $2.20 from $2.12 in 2006, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

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.

Studies have linked the berry to a host of positive health benefits, including preventing the build up of bacteria that causes urinary tract infection.

Companies have been eager to take advantage of those benefits, including Chr Hansen which has launched a range of cranberry ingredients available for both the dietary supplement and functional food industries.

Chr Hansen's NutriPhy Cranberry uses both the European (vaccinium oxycoccus) and North American (vaccinium macrocarpon) cranberry, and is aimed chiefly at preventing bacteria in the urinary tract.

Cranberries contain proanthocyanidins which have been associated with having a positive effect in inhibiting the growth of human lung, colon and leukaemia cells in culture.

Ocean Spray this summer announced it would expand its processing capacity in an effort to catch up with soaring global demand for products containing sweetened dried cranberries.

According to 2006 estimates, the US and Canada produce about 7 to 7.6 million 100-pound barrels of cranberries every year.

Ocean Spray claims to produce around two thirds of the cranberries on the US market.

Shortages in berries have been predicted in Europe by nutraceutical firm Berry Pharma, which said a bad harvest had affected elderberries, blackcurrant and blueberry.

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