US cranberry co-operative Ocean Spray will roll out a plumper version of its health ingredient for use in bakery products onto the European food market in the next few months, hoping to see value-added ingredients boost a bottom line hit by high yields and low prices.
Ocean Spray Ingredient Technology Group (ITG) said it had come up with an 'improved' soft, dried cranberry ingredient which it claimed was even 'juicier' than before.
The cranberry fruit market has been hit in the past two years by high yields and low prices that have damaged the bottom line for Ocean Spray. But a current modest pick-up in prices and a focus on value-added ingredients could mark an improvememt in figures for the co-op.
With annual sales in the region of £37 million (€55m) the sugar-infused, dehydrated fruit used in bakery, confectionery and snack products is likely to see a further boost in revenues on the back of recent health claim approval by France's food watchdog after millions of dollars were poured into research on the cranberry species.
In April this year, AFSSA, the French government's food safety authority, confirmed that the powder and juice of North American cranberries (vaccinium macrocarpon) "help reduce the adhesion of certain E. coli bacteria to the urinary tract walls".
Ocean Spray's competitors, such as Northland and Decas, can, of course, also use the claim, but Ocean Spray in a statement this week confirmed that its SDCs were already increasing in popularity thanks to the health positioning benefits for food products.
The ingredient, which "sustains its vibrant colour throughout the mixing process" has a sweet/tart flavour and can be sliced to various dimensions down to 1/8 inch.
In a close vote early last month, the cranberry co-operative snubbed a joint venture proposal from soft drinks giant PepsiCo, instead opting to continue as a farmer-owned co-op.
Despite challenging finances in recent years, the grower-owners at Ocean Spray - more than 900 fruit growers making it the world's largest cranberry producer - voted roughly 52 to 48 per cent against pursuing the PepsiCo venture. The 'no' verdict on the Pepsi deal means Ocean Spray will stop all talks with PepsiCo and other potential equity investors, bringing to an end a lengthy 'options' process launched by the board more than a year ago.
Pepsi's Tropicana juice drink is one of Ocean Spray's biggest competitors in the juice business, along with Coca-Cola's Minute Maid.
Early last year, Ocean Spray rejected an $800 million offer for its juice business from rival Northland Cranberries.