THESE TWO INDUSTRY POWERHOUSES, ON THEIR OWN, ARE FORCES TO BE RECKONED WITH. WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE PRODUCE INDUSTRY STARS ALIGN?
A BERRY BRAND TO RIVAL.
Nostalgia is key. Whether it is product branding that provokes memory, or memory that steers me down an aisle toward a specific brand—nostalgia is powerful. Ocean Spray® is one of those handfuls of brands that connects me to my childhood. Whether it was summer swim meets or snacks after soccer practice, this brand carries the weight of memory for myself, and I imagine, many others. Now, with the goal of creating a new generation of memories for the produce passionate, Ocean Spray is stepping up its game and combining the authority of its brand recognition, with the influence and reputation of marketing giant Oppy, to bring a new, fresh berry partnership to market.
Yes, my friends, there is a new game in town.
As powerhouses Ocean Spray and Oppy enter a new era in their fresh fruit partnership, the two companies are launching a new brand, Family Farmer Owned™, providing a range of berries from fresh strawberries and blueberries, to raspberries and blackberries, as part of the newly conceived fresh produce partnership. Strategically aligning their programs to bring a high-caliber product line and marketing campaign to North America, they aren’t walking the path toward success—they are paving it.
With the new venture increasing and elevating Oppy’s berry offerings and establishing a year-round fresh berry presence for Ocean Spray®, the two companies are looking to utilize an already wide-reaching brand to bring more value to their retail partners, along with nostalgia and excellence, to the produce aisle.
As we get into the thick of summer months and heightened berry demand, James Milne, Vice President of Marketing for Oppy, and Clark Reinhard, Vice President of Innovation for Ocean Spray join me to dish on the fruitful alliance and how they are hoping to impact the industry. With a strategic push in the berry category, the partnership seems ripe with reward.
“To a degree, we were already on that path to create our own berry brand. We knew that retail had been pushing us to a place where they wanted a concerted and more cohesive brand from us, as the category continued to grow exponentially,” James tells me. “Retailers have really been facing the challenge of label pollution in recent years, and our objective was to find a solution to the issue, instead of contributing to it. Our goal, from the start, was to be a one-stop-shop for a retailer’s berry needs and a vendor partner they could rely on for the gamut of retail support from quality and consistency, to merchandising solutions and supply-chain stability.”
HOW A PAST BUILDS A FUTURE
Over the past decade, Oppy has built a strong program with Ocean Spray; one steeped in tradition, tied to nostalgia, but also positioned for growth as we look to the future. Originating with the partnership’s fresh cranberry program, the two powerhouse produce companies have brought a value-proposition to market that only their partnership could promise. So, the extension of this relationship felt natural. In came the perfect storm: heightened consumer demand, a unique opportunity to impact and disrupt an established category, and two companies at their prime. Timing made more than sense.
“Ultimately, both of our businesses are about bringing the fruit from family farms to market. When you have two organizations with such similar missions, it’s really easy to find common ground and new areas to collaborate,” Clark shares with me. “We’ve been working with Oppy for a number of years on our fresh cranberry business but mother nature dictates that cranberries are only available a few months of the year. Over the past few months, we’ve been brainstorming with Oppy on ways to grow Ocean Spray’s presence in the produce aisle. Innovation isn’t always about new products, sometimes it’s in changing up the way you position your brand. Launching the Ocean Spray® Family Farmer Owned™ brand allows us to talk about the very core of who we are.”
“THIS BRAND AND VISION TRULY BRINGS VALUE AND A VAST AMOUNT OF BENEFITS TO GROWERS, RETAILERS, AND ULTIMATELY, THE CONSUMERS.”
- JAMES MILNE
The Ocean Spray brand is well known across multiple retail facets, having created long-lasting partnerships with retailers and deep, memory-making relationships with consumers. With this extension of Ocean Spray’s line to execute a year-round program, along with the addition of multiple segments of the berry category, the Oppy alliance’s ability to grow the category is generating excitement.
As James tells me, some may see Ocean Spray as a major corporate conglomerate taking over center-store shelves and edging out brands in the produce department, when in reality the company is a vibrant agricultural cooperative owned by more than 700 cranberry and grapefruit growers in the United States, Canada, and Chile. Clark and James are looking to bring the authenticity that they know so well, into consumers’ shopping baskets.
“The Ocean Spray Family Farmer Owned brand really communicates our companies’ support of family owned and operated farms,” James says, pausing as he chooses his next words. “This brand and vision truly brings value and a vast amount of benefits to growers, retailers, and ultimately, the consumer. With strict standards, practices, and processes in place, our promise to elevate the category is present throughout the supply chain. The brand integrity itself really begins with the heart of the program: the grower.”
The family-strong element to this campaign, is a thread that will run through the program, the partnership, and each strategic step the two marketing teams take to bring this brand to fruition. And they have the stats to position themselves for a fruitful year.
NUMBERS DON'T LIE
Over the past year, Oppy conducted extensive research throughout North America and uncovered a genuine growing enthusiasm for berries across demographics and regions. Snacking has taken off, more health-conscious consumers are looking to add variety and elevated flavors to their diet; and let’s not forget about versatility and widening ranges of ethnic and traditional cuisine. With berry category sales at retail elevating 15 percent in the last two years alone, combined with IRI data showing average-price-per-pound gains and berry sales volume increases throughout the U.S., the Oppy Ocean Spray partnership seems primed to deliver on its promises. It only helps that branded produce is earning greater dollar share throughout the category.
Each partner brings a heavy-hitting assortment of strategic advantages to the table.
“For nearly 160 years, Oppy has discovered and delivered the best of the world’s fruits and vegetables by partnering with the most dedicated and high-caliber local and international growers to bring sustainable fresh produce to domestic and global shores. Today, we proudly source over 100 varieties of produce from more than 25 countries,” James says.
Formed in 1930 by three cranberry growers with a simple love of cranberries, Ocean Spray possesses the same gravity of a family-owned lineage and is now one of the world’s leading producers of cranberry juices, juice drinks, and dried cranberries, with an evolved fresh berry spread to bring into today’s fold. The cooperative’s cranberries are currently featured in more than a thousand great-tasting, good-for-you products in over 100 countries worldwide, with more than 2,000 employees, and nearly 20 cranberry receiving and processing facilities in its program. And the brand-recognition already speaks for itself.
“THERE IS AN AUTHENTICITY TO WHAT WE DO AT OCEAN SPRAY THAT I HAVE NEVER SEEN WITH ANY OF THE OTHER BRANDS I’VE WORKED ON.”
- CLARK REINHARD
“Fresh cranberries are only available a few months of the year. By extending the Ocean Spray Brand to other berries we have an opportunity to reach consumers in new ways throughout the year,” Clark says.
Reflecting on how far he, and the company, have come just in recent years, he shares that he grew up at Proctor and Gamble and joined Ocean Spray in 2016. “It was a tough decision to leave Cincinnati for South Eastern Massachusetts, but ultimately I was drawn to the unique business model and power of the Ocean Spray brand. I have been lucky enough to get to know many of our grower-owners and have spent time on some of their farms. There is an authenticity to what we do at Ocean Spray that I have never seen with any of the other brands I’ve worked on. We know consumers want to support family farms and Ocean Spray lets them do that in a convenient way. It’s really a very exciting opportunity to know you’re providing consumers with delicious high-quality produce and products while at the same time ensuring family farms thrive for the next generation of growers.
A FORCE IN THE BERRY PATCH
So, what other exciting developments are in-store for these two industry-leading companies as they look to move the needle in the fresh berry space? James smiles, and you can hear the excitement in his voice as he speaks about fresh, innovative ideas in the pipeline, and further disruption across berry branding and the berry category. Off the record, of course.
“Our marketing teams have really clicked in a way that is unusual,” James reflects. “I have been in this industry for 30 years now and have seen various marketing groups attempt to collaborate, and when they come together there is always a little bit of tension and friction with different viewpoints. Our connection with the Ocean Spray marketing group around this Family Farmer Owned™ brand has been fabulous, and I believe you are going to see many neat things come out in the next few months and the next few years; in the fresh space and beyond.”
At the end of the day, both Oppy and Ocean Spray share the sentiment, that the partnership is about creating a link, a narrative, a thread that connects the grower to the consumer.
And luckily for retailers, their space is where the story, and deep authenticity, take hold.