A poor cranberry harvest and rising global demand could push prices of cranberry-based products to their highest level for eight or nine years, according to Ocean Spray.
The world's leading cranberry brand said there was a big shortage of the berries, following a 9% reduction in this year's harvest to eight million barrels and a 10% increase in global demand.
"In a shortage situation, open market pricing on concentrate goes up and so the grower owners of our company are demanding a higher return for their fruit," said Jared Konstanty, MD of Ocean Spray International Services for Europe, Middle East and Africa.
But British consumers should have no trouble finding Ocean Spray products on the shelves, because the UK market was being prioritised for cranberry supplies, he insisted. Rising cranberry prices and a curb on the expansion into new markets would ensure availability was maintained.
"There won't be a shortage of cranberry products this Christmas," said Konstanty. "We are taking action to ensure we have supply for our core businesses for the next 12-14 months as we move through the fruit that has just been harvested. We are working very hard to ensure our core markets, such as the UK, have all the cranberries they need to meet demand, and we will honour all our supply contracts."
Demand in Europe is growing 30%-40% a year, and the UK takes the lion's share of the branded Ocean Spray business, with more than 40 different SKUs from juice to sauce and dried fruit.
Growers in North America are finding it hard to keep up with demand because it takes up to five years before newly planted cranberry bushes can be harvested. Pickers have to flood the cranberry fields, then dislodge the berries using machines so they float to the surface, where they can be 'herded' with booms. Poor weather last spring and autumn is being blamed for the low harvest.