With the annual cranberry harvest kicking off in mid-September, Ocean Spray has geared up to move a crop that mirrors last season’s strong production. The grower-owned cooperative is implementing new programs to extend the fresh cranberry season through the Christmas holiday. Additionally, Ocean Spray has worked hard to meet the needs of its customers by improving keeping-quality techniques and focusing on later varieties.
“Harvest started this week in Quebec, and we are now busy packing for our Canadian customers’ Thanksgiving, which is on October 8,” Scott Simmons, senior manager of global produce and commodity for Ocean Spray, told The Produce News Sept. 13. “Quebec was the first region to come on board, and our other domestic regionswere all set to begin by about September 17. We will have good supply all the way through December.”
Mr. Simmons said that Ocean Spray is looking to expand the fresh cranberry season beyond the traditional Thanksgiving holiday by educating consumers with point-of-sale materials that provide recipes and usage ideas. “October is a great opportunity to get a jumpstart on the season and grow the category by getting that initial sale in October,” said Mr. Simmons. “To help accomplish that, we have a three-month program featuring recipe cards being distributed at retailers starting in October, with different recipes offered each month. The recipe cards are designed to bring awareness to fresh cranberries and to motivate consumers to use cranberries in new occasions. For example, December is the perfect time to use cranberries in baking and decorating applications.
“We are also introducing grower-owner profiles from our four fresh cranberry growing regions,” Mr. Simmons continued. “This is an expansion of our Heritage campaign that we started a few years ago on our juice drinks. With a growing consumer interest in locally grown farming and food, these profiles help connect the consumer with the generations of family farmers in the Ocean Spray cooperative, who put their heart and soul into growing this little berry.”
Ocean Spray’s fresh cranberry packages have a “Fresh From” symbol this year, indicating from which of the five growing regions (Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Quebec, Washington and British Columbia) the berries were harvested. The new packaging is designed to help educate consumers about Ocean Spray and fresh cranberries.”
Food safety is another element at the forefront of Ocean Spray’s efforts, and Mr. Simmons said that the cooperative has undergone Primus Labs auditing and will be Primus Labs certified by next season. He added that its two largest farms, which represent about 60 percent of the total supply, are GlobalGAP certified.”We decided to go with Primus because it is more universally accepted by the retail trade,” said Mr. Simmons. “Additionally, every grower has to meet Ocean Spray’s standards toward continuous improvement.”
The Oppenheimer Group is in its 10th year working with Ocean Spray fresh cranberries. “They have done a great job helping to grow the fresh cranberry business with our customers,” Mr. Simmons said.