Ocean Spray phasing out cranberry sauce production

Markham location will focus on its ‘core product’ dried cranberries

Ocean Spray is consolidating its cranberry sauce production and will no longer make sauce at its Markham facility.

“Over the next week we are ramping down the production of our cranberry sauce at the Markham facility as we continue to consolidate sauce production at a co-packer and our Kenosha, Wis., facility,” said Kellyanne Dignan, Ocean Spray director of global cooperative communications. Co-packers are contract manufacturers “who may have the equipment we need to make a specific product or be in a location where we need production but don’t own assets.”

The end of sauce production could impact the 16 employees that work the line, but whether this step by the 87-year-old cooperative will end in layoffs is not yet certain.

“As this is an ongoing process, we are working with all our employees in the facility to ensure a smooth transition and determine future staffing needs,” said Dignan.

The Markham location currently employs 110 workers and until this week cranked out 800,000 cases of cranberry sauce in a year. It will now focus on its main product — dried cranberries.

“Making these changes will allow the Markham facility to focus on its core product, dried cranberries, as well as allowing for investment and expansion in other areas of innovation,” said Dignan. “Today this facility produces Craisins — dried cranberries that are sold as far away as Australia and in growth markets like China, making it a very important part of our manufacturing network.”

Ocean Spray began producing dried cranberries in the 1940s, supplying the troops in World War II with a million pounds of them a year. In the 1990s, the company brought dried cranberries back and marketed them toward food manufacturers for industrial baking. In 1993, Ocean Spray introduced Craisins, marketed them to consumers as a snack food, and the public literally ate them up. Craisins are now included in yogurts and two types of trail mixes, come in several different flavors and are available covered in chocolate.

The Markham facility produces 32 million pounds of dried cranberries a year. It opened in 1946 and covers 17 acres. In 2006 the processing plant was expanded from 189,000 to 206,000 square feet to meet the global demand for dried cranberries.