Cranberries, synonymous with Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas, are also linked to the health of our urinary tracts, as well as list of other health benefits. Growing awareness of the berries has led to increased demand from food and beverage manufacturers and supplement companies for the berry, its juice, and its extracts.
The supply is dominated by Ocean Spray, the US cooperative based in Massachusetts cranberry country. The company produces over half of the nine million barrels of cranberries harvested annually in North America. Second place in the market goes to Decas Botanicals. The two firms, both based in Massachusetts, together account for around 70 per cent of the North American cranberry market. Decas estimates that it holds about 10 per cent of the market, while Ocean Spray has over 60 percent.
Kristen Borsari, senior manager of global marketing for Ocean Spray’s ingredient technology group, said that, unlike in other industries, there are no crops being grown in Asia. “We have heard about experimental crops in the Netherlands and New Zealand however,” she said.
David Tournay from France’s Tournay Biotechnologies, and president of Euracran, the European Association for the Valorization of Cranberry Extracts, agreed that the best source of Vaccinium macrocarpon is North America. “Though organic cranberries are bought only in Canada,” he added.
The majority of the cranberries go into beverages, while Ocean Spray also has the production capacity for 45 million kilograms (100 million lbs) of sweetened dried cranberries (SDCs), which then get formulated into a range of food products, from breakfast cereals to nutrition bars.
“We’re seeing a ton of growth in SDCs,” said Borsari. “We’re selling cranberry ingredients in over 50 countries around the world.”
Decas has also experienced growth in demand for SDCs. The company announced an expansion of its facilities in February 2008 to meet demand for the product. The expansion was planned to expand its production capacity for SDCs by 35 per cent.
According to the Cranberry Marketing Committee there are 33 suppliers of cranberries, all based in the United States. In terms of the cranberry juice concentrate, Dan Souza, director of sales and marketing for Decas Botanicals, points to a Food Institute Report from 2008 showing supply shortages caused an increase in prices in 2008, with prices for 50 degree brix concentrates hovering around the $135.00 per gallon mark.
However, a subsequent dramatic drop in juice consumption led to an easing on price, with the Food Institute Report noting on April 27, 2009 a return to traditional levels between $60 and $75 per gallon for the concentrate.
“The significant growth in demand for cranberry products had definitely created tightness in supply over the past few years but that is no longer an issue,” said Borsari. “Increased supply has brought demand and supply into better alignment.”
The supply easing has been felt in other areas, including the extracts. Mr Tournay noted an increase in extracts production since 2008. “There may have been a problem last year, but now material is sufficient,” he said.
“Since we started early on the extract market, we have yearly contracts with growers and sellers, and have not had any supply issue. We keep on increasing our production and can continue this growth as much as necessary,” added Tournay.
Euracran is the initiative of three industrial producers of cranberry extracts: Burgundy Botanical Extracts, Diana Naturals and Tournay Biotechnologies.
The first low concentration extracts were launched in the US for the urinary tract infection (UTI) market, said Tournay. This was followed by high concentration extracts in Europe. “US and Asian companies are only appearing now on this market,” he said.
“High concentration, as it allows more potent and convenient products (one capsule or tablet a day), have gained great market shares in several countries, and especially France,” said Tournay. “More competition, therefore but extract makers that already have a several years presence benefit from a better visibility and higher credibility.”
Both Tournay Biotechnologies ExoCyan Cran extract and the CystiCran product developed jointly by Decas and Lallemand Health Ingredients are said to contain the highest quantities of proanthocyanidins (PACs)at 30 per cent PACs.
As with any extract, concerns over adulteration are present in the cranberry market, with the recent arrival of extracts being sold as cranberry but actually containing “grape or other cheap sources of PAC”, said Tournay.
“To address this, efficacy tests are now developed by universities, especially in France, that allow to verify and assess the real potency of various extracts found, and that will probably replace traditional PAC assay in the near future,” he said.
NutraIngredients will continue the series with part 3 looking at the regulatory issues around cranberry and its extracts.
To read part one of this series, please click here.