Apr 30, 2009
Wanted: More Cranberries. Call Today.

Ocean Spray is looking for more cranberries, either produced by its existing 600 or so growers who own the cooperative company or by other growers who’d like to join the co-op and the growing market for its products.

Arun Hiranandani, director of cooperative development for Ocean Spray, said a good part of the company’s expanding needs would be met by existing growers who renovate their bogs and add new acreage. But, “Ocean Spray is an open cooperative and we have invited others to join.”

The outreach program includes paid advertisements in cranberry newsletters in Wisconsin and Massachusetts, the two largest producing states; regional meetings in which company representatives talk to growers; and one-on-one meetings with those who express an interest.

“We talk through the process,” Hiranandani said.

Growers who call his department get detailed information on what they need to do. Federal Clean Water Act and state environmental regulations involve obtaining permits.

The state of Michigan, which has conditions similar to Wisconsin, has never been able to develop a significant cranberry industry. It has 250 acres, compared to 18,000 in Wisconsin.

“We’d love to see Michigan expand in cranberries,” Hiranandani said.

The company is also looking for new growers in Canada.

Ocean Spray provides about 70 percent of all the cranberry products sold in the world, and it is growing. In the next five years, Ocean Spray would need about 1 million more 100-pound barrels of cranberries per year, or about 6,000 new acres, he said.

The company, headquartered in Lakeville-Middleboro, Mass., has spent millions of dollars in the last two years expanding its facilities in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. Those improvements were expected to be finished in March.

The market for fruit juices was thought to be “mature” a decade ago, but instead it began to grow. Demand grew for cranberry juice, alone or in mixtures with other fruit. The company expanded with grapefruit, produced by about 50 grower-members in Florida, and made cranberry-grapefruit drinks. Two years ago, it created a cranberry-blueberry drink – touting the health benefits attached to the two antioxidant-loaded berries.

Last year, Ocean Spray entered the energy drink market with Cranergy, made with green tea extract – with vitamins added.

A key reason for the $75 million plant expansion in Wisconsin was the growth in demand for sweetened dried cranberries, a product used in baked goods, cereals and trail mixes and sold to consumers as Craisins Sweetened Dried Cranberries. Global demand doubled over the last three years, Hiranandani said, and is expected to double again in the next three.

The plant in Wisconsin Rapids, now the largest cranberry processing plant in the world at 440,000 square feet, has 125,000 square feet and two production lines devoted to sweetened dried cranberries. The capacity is 30 million pounds of dried product a year.

Ocean Spray still produces canned cranberry sauces, both the crushed fruit and jellied versions, and the fresh cranberries that grace tables at Thanksgiving. But growth has been in other products – and in other countries.

Cranberry products, produced only in North America, are now sold in more than 50 countries, Hiranandani said.

Interested growers should call Judy Joy at 800-334-4204.

75 Applewood Drive, Suite A
P.O. Box 128
Sparta, MI 49345
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