Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Ocean Spray Rides Risk-Taking Credo into Fortune 500

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Ocean Spray Rides Risk-Taking Credo into Fortune 500

Article excerpt

PLYMOUTH, Mass. - A few days before Thanksgiving 1959, disaster struck America's cranberry farmers when a herbicide used by a handfu l of West Coast growers was found to cause cancer in laboratory rats.

Federal officials took to TV, warning consumers not to buy cranberry products. The industry's sales crashed.

That winter, a few cranberry farmers got together and decided they needed help running their cooperative. They pooled $25,000 and hired a local financial consultant who told them they needed to install professional managers soon or face financial ruin.

The meeting was providential for America's cranberry growers. It gave new direction to Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc., a once-modest business run by farmers that has since blossomed into a Fortune 500 company with 65 products, $500 million in revenues and 1,500 employees.

Today the company is considered one of the most innovative and entrepreneurial of the country's 7,500 cooperatives. Ocean Spray is the third best selling juice on the market, and sales have doubledin the past five years. Profits have jumped 36 percent since 1982 to $147 million last year.

""I would characterize Ocean Spray as among the most aggressive and perhaps the most successful companies in the juice and beverage category in the U.S.,'' said Leo Plante, a former analyst with Goldman, Sachs and Co. in New York and an expert on food commodities and cooperatives.

Plante likens the Ocean Spray success story to the tale of David slaying Goliath.

""You have to look at who Ocean Spray is competing with - giant, multinational corporations like Beatrice, which owns Tropicana, and Coca-Cola, which owns Minute Maid,'' he said. ""Ocean Spray didn't succeed by muscling anyone out of the market. They did it by being perceptive, clever and gutsy. …

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