How Ocean Spray is using its cranberries to push into wellness

Bottles of Ocean Spray Diet Blueberry Juice on a store shelf.

Roberto Machado Noa | LightRocket | Getty Images

Ocean Spray’s cranberries are now being used for more than juice and the jellied cranberry sauce to accompany Thanksgiving turkey.

The company, under the leadership of CEO Tom Hayes, is now pushing into wellness and functional beverages as it broadens its innovation.

“Any brand marketer will know that having the huge benefit of a the brand awareness that Ocean Spray does, the 99% brand awareness, is just the start,” Hayes said in an interview with CNBC’s Tyler Mathison at the CNBC Evolve Summit on Tuesday. “You have to continue to keep the brand relevant.”

Concerns about sugar consumption have led the overall juice category to decline in recent years. Instead, consumers have been drinking water, kombucha and other drinks that promise health benefits.

For example, in June, Ocean Spray began testing CarryOn in Colorado. The line of CBD sparkling waters was created by the company’s innovation incubator, dubbed the Lighthouse. Another line of herbal blended beverages, created under the new brand Atoka, was also the brainchild of the incubator.

“What we’ve been doing at Ocean Spray is transitioning the company from just cranberry-centric to health and wellness consumer centric,” said Hayes, who was chief executive of Tyson Foods until 2018.

Hayes acknowledged that not every new product will be a huge hit for the farmer-owned cooperative.

“But what they do is bring new life to the category. We have to evolve from a traditional and well understood brand to an exciting brand with a portfolio that consumers want to interact with,” he said.

The pandemic has changed the way people create and consume content and access entertainment. But are these changes permanent? Join the CNBC Evolve Livestream on December 3 for a conversation about changing consumer trends and how far media companies should go in changing their strategies to reach their customers and meet their needs.

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