Demand for cranberries close to outstripping supply

By Sarah Hills

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Ocean spray Cranberry

Ocean Spray has opened what it describes as the largest cranberry processing facility in the world but it said that it could be expanded further, if only there was enough fruit to go round.

The agricultural cooperative and producer of canned and bottled juice has completed the expansion of its Wisconsin Rapids facility which has doubled the plant's size to 440,000 square feet and increased capacity.

It comes as the 2008 cranberry crop is forecast to be the second largest on record, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service which anticipated 6.89m barrels this year, up five percent from 2007 and slightly below 2006.

However, even more cranberry production is needed according to Randy Papadellis, President and CEO of Ocean Spray, who said the opening of the new plant reinforced its dedication to growing more cranberries and creating additional jobs in the Badger State.

He said: “If we can build on this partnership and add more cranberries, there could be even more added expansion and jobs to this facility in the future… but we need the fruit."

Kristen Borsari, senior manager global marketing, Ocean Spray Ingredients, added that the demand for cranberries is beginning to outstrip supply.

She also FoodNavigator-USA: “The opening of this plant is helping to fuel the growth that we are seeing around the world and offer better customer service, as well as increased flexibility.”

Borsari said Ocean Spray produces hundreds of dried fruit products and partners with food manufacturers to deliver the kind of ingredients they want. This includes its fusion fruits, which replicate other fruits such as strawberries with a dried cranberry because it is more process tolerant than the real thing.

Its sweetened dried cranberries are featured as ingredients in more than 1,000 different grocery, bakery and dairy products internationally. Meanwhile global demand for its sweetened dried cranberries has doubled over the last three years and this is predicted to double again over the next three.

Cranberry crop

The USDA’s August 2008 report said that across the US, there were 6.5m barrels of cranberries produced in 2007 and 6.2m were used for processing. The crop last year was worth about $300m and 58 percent of the cranberries produced were from Wisconsin.

Production in Wisconsin this year is forecast at 3.85m barrels, slightly above 2007 but two percent below 2006. It will be the second largest production level on record after a cool, wet spring delayed bloom and extended the growing season. New and renovated beds have also come into production this year, resulting in improved yields.

Production line

Ocean Spray’s 125,000 square foot expansion houses patented state-of-the-art technology to manufacture sweetened dried cranberries for ingredient customers and for consumers under the Craisins brand.

The company invested $75 million to add two sweetened dried cranberry production lines. One line is already operational and when both production lines are up and running by March, 2009, the plant will have the capacity to produce more than 30m pounds of sweetened dried cranberries per year.

It says that the plant incorporates some of the latest technologies in energy and environmental efficiency, including a wastewater treatment facility and an expansion of the system that converts methane from the Veolia Cranberry Creek Landfill into clean energy to power the plant.

Ocean Spray is owned by more than 600 cranberry growers. It claims to be North America's leading producer of canned and bottled juices and juice drinks, and has been the best-selling brand name in the canned and bottled juice category since 1981. Its fiscal 2007 revenues were about $1.7bn.

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