Ocean Spray taps former Coca-Cola exec to lead international expansion

By Mary Ellen Shoup contact

- Last updated on GMT

Photo Credit: Ocean Spray
Photo Credit: Ocean Spray

Related tags: Ocean spray, cranberries

Ocean Spray has hired former Coca-Cola Company vice president & general manager of its multi-billion-dollar water portfolio, Celina Li, to lead the cranberry cooperative's international expansion efforts and global business-to-business ingredients business.

Owned by 700 cranberry farmers in the US, Canada, and Chile, Ocean Spray branded products (i.e. beverages, Craisins dried cranberries, sauce and fresh fruit) are available in 100 countries worldwide. 

In her new role, Li will be focused on expanding into new geographies and bringing a greater variety of Ocean Spray products to international consumers as part of the company's ongoing goal to raise awareness for cranberries' associated health benefits.

Prior to Coca-Cola, Li was global director Stella Artois & Beyond Beer at Anheuser-Busch InBev, held Gillette & Venus brand management roles at Procter & Gamble, and advised leading corporations and private equity firms on strategy and acquisitions with Bain & Co.

"Whether with Coca-Cola, AB InBev, P&G, or Bain, I have been building iconic brands, entering new markets and channels, employing a variety of go-to-market business models, and launching innovative products that both meet unique local consumer needs and expand categories,"​ Li told FoodNavigator-USA.

"I see enormous potential in further expanding Ocean Spray’s global footprint."

“Celina is a deeply experienced executive that has accelerated global consumer businesses through transformative strategy, category expansion, brand modernization, breakthrough innovation and geographic expansion. She brings an established track record of market-leading growth, which will be instrumental in guiding our global teams and executing strategy,”​ said Tom Hayes, president and CEO at Ocean Spray.

'We absolutely have to be consumer-centric'

Addressing region-specific consumer needs will be key to unlocking Ocean Spray's global ambitions, added Lee.

"We absolutely have to be consumer-centric—supporting people wherever they are on their health and wellness journey. Looking at this through an international lens, we will seek to develop a diverse portfolio of products that gives consumers, in regional markets and geographies, the opportunity to choose the product options they want to incorporate into their lifestyle while focusing on different aspects of their health,"​ she said. 

Some of Ocean Spray's most recent innovations [in the US] include Ocean Spray Wave​, a lightly caffeinated sparkling beverage with 0g of added sugar, and its Growing Goodness kids juice box line with 9g of sugar per 6.75-oz juice box.

Health research

Supporting urinary tract health is perhaps its most well-known and most-researched health benefit due to the fruits PACs (proanthocyanidins), but other growing areas of research include cranberries' positive role in cardiovascular, oral, and gastrointestinal health, according to The Cranberry Institute's health research library​.

'The future is incredibly bright'

While US cranberry production was slightly down in 2020 compared to 2019 -- 7.83 million barrels vs. 7.91 million barrels harvested, according to USDA NASS data from May 2021​ -- the global cranberry market is expected to register a CAGR of 3.7% during the forecasted 2020-2025 period, according to Research and Markets​.

"The future is incredibly bright. Right now, our focus is driving international expansion of our branded business and the strategic growth on the B2B side of the house, for our co-operative and family-owned farms,"​ said Li.

"We’re going to continue innovating across both our branded and ingredient businesses, as well as expand cranberry applications in locally relevant consumption occasions and food and beverage categories." 

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