Marriage Made in Beverage Heaven


Thursday, October 11, 2012    

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Cranberries are big business. How huge, exactly? Think a $2-billion-a-year-generating enterprise for Ocean Spray — the world's leading manufacturer of cranberry-related beverages and products. Headquartered in Lakeville, Massachusetts, Ocean Spray recently inked a bottling and distribution deal with corporate giant Pepsico to expand its cranberry portfolio of consumer products to new markets in the Caribbean and Latin America.

In light of the recent changeover of local distribution rights of the Ocean Spray brand from Wisynco's to Pepsico's hands last month, a fact-finding trip to Massachusetts for journos from The Rock was deemed timely. Also jetting off last week to the American east coast state for a two-day crash course in Ocean Spray 101 were Trinidadian, Guatemalan, Mexican, and Colombian media representatives.

Checking into the contemporary chic Colonnade Hotel on Huntington Avenue in the city of Boston, Thursday Food and our media peers were bussed from the metropolis to the quieter, rural landscape of Lakeville to be formally introduced to the corporate operational side of Ocean Spray.

Keith Benoit, vice-president of Ocean Spray's global partners and developing markets, welcomed the travelling multinational team of editors, reporters, photographers, videographers and regional Pepsico execs to the company's relaxed office space.

"We are a co-operative owned by 600 cranberry-grower families," Benoit told the group of 20-plus persons during his mid-morning presentation. "The company is owned by the growers who are also on our board of directors, and our job is to sell the fruit for them — whether it be our drinks, sauces and dried cranberry products."

Emphasising that Ocean Spray does not follow the corporate conglomerate business model, Benoit noted that functioning as a co-operative helps to create a different kind of work environment — a more laid-back work culture where even growers can pop into the corporate office in bog-ready attire — that has served the company well since the cooperative's establishment more than seven decades ago.

The cranberry fruit, cited as having several beneficial health properties including limiting urinary tract infection, is seen as a product with mass appeal.

With globalisation in full effect for the world's ever-expanding consumer markets, Benoit said the Massachusetts-based company's need to venture into untapped territories has become a matter of new priority. Enter the contractual agreements to retail Ocean Spray through food and beverage titan Pepsico. The recently forged alliance, he advises, "will help reach customers that we would not necessarily have been able to ."

Enrique Cortinas, director of strategic alliances for Pepsico Latin America Beverages, reinforced Benoit's point. Under a 20-year strategic alliance that was announced in January of this year, he noted Pepsico has exclusive rights to manufacture and distribute a portfolio of cranberry and blueberry beverages through its Latin America Beverages division to key countries in the Caribbean, Central America and South America.

To Jamaica's credit, the island is a sizeable market for Ocean Spray as the per capita consumption is documented as the highest in the world.

Looking to a winning future, the Pepsico director remarked: "Berries and superfruits represent an untapped but rapidly growing opportunity across Latin America. Our alliance with the leading cranberry co-operative worldwide unlocks tremendous value for us as we innovate within this category and reinforce our commitment to the growing consumer interest in balanced beverage choices."

A marriage made in beverage heaven, indeed.

— Omar Tomlinson



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