Ethical Naturals hails bumper harvest for Oregon cranberries

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

© nycshooter / Getty Images
© nycshooter / Getty Images

Related tags Cranberry Urinary tract Prebiotics Harvest Supply chain

The harvest for cranberries from Oregon increased 17.5% in 2023 versus 2022 linked to good weather and growing conditions, with California-based Ethical Naturals Inc. (ENI), maker of Cranberex, calling this “good news."

About 90% of American cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon​) are produced in Wisconsin and Massachusetts. USDA data from 2023 shows that​ while the overall US harvest for cranberry dropped about 5% versus 2022, the harvest in Oregon increased 17.5%.

Oregon’s first commercial cranberry farm was established in 1885 in Coos County by a grower who migrated from Massachusetts and brought cranberry cuttings with him. Coos and neighboring Curry County are where Oregon’s cranberry industry still thrives today.

While cranberries from Oregon still only account for about 5% of the nation's cranberry harvest,  Oregon cranberries are renowned for their deep red color​, which is linked to a higher content of proanthocyanidin (PAC), said ENI.

“2022 was a difficult year for supply of the highest-grade berries, and key suppliers were running low on extracts by the end of 2023,” said Cal Bewicke, CEO of Ethical Naturals. “Though demand for the high-grade material continues to grow, we see more favorable pricing and supply through 2024 due to the robust harvest in Oregon.”

Bewicke told us that most of the ENI Cranberex business is in the U.S. but that it has seen significant interest from Europe in recent years.

“When worldwide supplies of high-quality cranberry extracts were running low at the end of 2023, ENI made some substantial sales to the European market due to our strong inventory position,” he said.

ENI launched its Cranberex-branded ingredient in 2017. The ingredient is standardized to contain 15% of the A-type PACs, measured by the BL-DMAC method.

According to the recent report on U.S. herbal dietary supplements sales published in HerbalGram 139​, cranberry was the sixth highest selling herbal supplement in 2022 in the mainstream multi-outlet channel, with sales of $91.47 million. In the natural channel, cranberry sits at number 16 with $7.70 million in sales.

Urinary tract health and beyond

PACs are also not exclusive to cranberries but can be found in a range of foods, including green tea, grapes, apples and chocolate. However, the main type of PACs in cranberry—called A-type PACs—are different from the B-type PACs found in these other source. Only cranberry PACs are reported to prevent bacterial adhesion in the urinary tract.

In 2004, France became the first country to approve a health claim for the North American cranberry with at least 36 mg of proanthocyanidins (PAC) to “help reduce the adhesion of certain E. coli bacteria to the urinary tract walls” and subsequently fight urinary tract infections (UTIs).

In recent years, the researchers have begun to explore the potential prebiotic activity of cranberry​ extracts.

“There have been some studies and articles on the probiotic and prebiotic potential of cranberry extracts, but it seems that this category is in its early stages,” ENI’s Bewicke told NutraIngredients-USA. “Compared with the levels of discovery on cranberry’s UTI benefits, this is only a small fraction.

“However, the polyphenols in cranberry are potent antioxidants in their own right and are used for this purpose in polyphenol blends for antioxidant support. For example, ENI uses cranberry polyphenols in our Polyphenol-C product, a Non-GMO vitamin-C with berry polyphenols; also in other polyphenol blends that we manufacture.”

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