For some reason, cranberry juice is a staple in my house. My roommate drinks it more than water, and it’s great with lemonade and mixed with sparkling water for a fizzy drink. It’s delicious, and cranberry juice is versatile in that it is used for a variety of cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks and can even help with preventing UTIs. It’s also amazing when mixed with other fruit juices– Ocean Spray has a whole variety. Ocean Spray’s cranberry juice is probably what you’d imagine when someone mentions cranberry juice. The company is known for making cranberry sauce, dried cranberries, and a variety of different fruit-flavored cranberry juices. And so, because my roommate makes sure there are at least three large bottles of Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice in our fridge at all times, I had to see just how sustainable this gorgeously red drink was. I was happily surprised to discover just how sustainable cranberry farming was. Maybe at your next Thanksgiving dinner, Ocean Spray cranberry sauce deserves a place at the table, and a glass of their cranberry juice is a sustainable and delicious treat to have too!
Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice is made of– you guessed it– cranberries. This superfruit is grown on farms in the United States, Canada and Chile, some of which are detailed on their website. Cranberry farming is actually one of the most sustainable, since they’re cultivated in bogs and require little maintenance or extra water. Cranberries are incredibly good sources of antioxidants and nutrients. The ingredients on their nutrition facts label are very simple, and don’t contain any high-fructose corn syrup or artificial flavoring and coloring. The coloring they use is even made of a vegetable concentrate– most likely beet concentrate for a bright red color, though it isn’t specified exactly what vegetable is used. However, their use of white sugar may not be very sustainable. The harvesting of sugarcane and processing of white sugar requires agro-chemicals, which include pesticides and fertilizers, and also contribute to habitat loss and air pollution and runoff. If the sugar is harvested sustainably, this would make the rating much higher, but Ocean Spray doesn’t give any details as to where they purchase their sugar from. They also add ascorbic acid, a form of Vitamin C that is considered eco-friendly because it does not produce any contaminants during the production process. They use filtered water, which may be a small issue depending on what they do to remove the waste they filter out of the water. They’re not totally transparent about their water use and where they source their water from, however- this might be a red flag!
Ocean Spray is an agricultural cooperative, meaning they source their cranberries from nearly 700 farms, all of whom share ownership. Cranberries are grown in bogs, making them pretty low-maintenance, since they don’t need a lot of water. The cranberry bogs are actually conserving wetlands, because it is required that 5.5 acres of wild marsh surrounds an acre of cranberry farmland. This farming is sustainable for soil regeneration, since cranberry bogs help to enrich the soil of the marsh. Ocean Spray utilizes both wet and dry harvesting. In the latter, a machine like a large lawn mower picks the berries off the bush, and helicopters take the yields to production factories in order to not damage any cranberry vines with truck tires. In wet harvesting, the cranberry bogs are flooded, and because of the air pockets in each individual cranberry, they float, and cranberry farmers are able to corral and gather them. Though this process uses a lot of water, cranberry farmers are required to use sustainable irrigation techniques, renewable energy, and improved technology to minimize water usage and monitor the soil. Once harvested, the cranberries are shipped to be boiled and strained, then cooled, packaged, and sent to your local grocery. They’re not quite as transparent about transportation and shipping, though, and their carbon emissions might be lower than we think.
Because it’s an agricultural cooperative, Ocean Spray’s 700 farms preserve the farmer family way of life for many generations. Many of their farms have sustained multiple generations, and all the farmers are shareholders and the primary decision makers. On their website, Ocean Spray is quite transparent about their harvesting methods and how they distribute profits to their families. The farmer-owners receive all the profits from their crops and invest as they see fit, and are not subject to the mercy of some corporate market. Ocean Spray is dedicated to an ethical and sustainable way of production and life, maintaining sustainable farming and harvesting methods while also making sure their farmer families earn the profit they deserve. As an agricultural cooperative, the farmer families are allowed to vote on their own board and use their profit to invest in their own farms, creating an investment cycle that leads to an inherently better product and a business model that allows the farms to continue for generations.