By Malinda Geisler, content specialist, AgMRC, Iowa State University.
Revised September 2013 by Diane Huntrods, AgMRC, Iowa State University.
The cranberry, one of three fruits native to North America, is commercially grown in the United States. The country produced more than 8.0 million barrels of cranberries in 2012, valued at more than $385.5 million. More than half of the nation’s cranberries are produced in Wisconsin, followed by Massachusetts. New Jersey, Oregon and Washington also produce cranberries. (NASS 2013)
U.S. per person consumption of cranberries is 2.3 pounds, almost entirely in the form of juice (ERS).
In 2012 Wisconsin continued to be the dominant cranberry-producing state, harvesting more than 4.8 million barrels of cranberries valued at nearly $230.7 million. The state supplied 51 percent of all fresh cranberries marketed that year and 60 percent of all processed cranberries. Massachusetts harvested more than 2.1 million barrels of cranberries valued at more than $99.8 million. (NASS 2013)
Grower prices for cranberries averaged $47.90 per barrel in 2012, up from $44.80 per barrel in 2011. The average grower price for fresh cranberries was $78.30 per barrel in 2012 and for processed cranberries was $46.90 per barrel. (NASS 2013)
The cranberry plant is a perennial that produces a low-growing, woody vine. Stems or runners form short vertical upright branches called uprights. Most of the fruit results from flowers that grow on the uprights. Some berries originate from flowers on the runner ends. Initiation of the flower bud takes place 16 months prior to fruit harvest, beginning in July. The flower buds become dormant during winter months, at which time, the plants are protected with a winter flood.
Man-made wetlands or bogs are used for most of the U.S. cranberry production. The dry land beds surrounded by man-made dikes are layered with sand and organic matter.
Cranberries require an acid soil with a pH between 4.0 and 5.5. During the growing season, March through October, cranberry bogs are managed with drained soil. Irrigation may be required during fruit set through harvest. Sprinkler systems may be installed under the surface of the bogs or placed on the surface and removed before each harvest. Flooding is used for winter protection, harvest and pest control.
Cranberries are harvested from mid-September through October. Cranberries for the fresh market are harvested mechanically without flooding. Cranberries destined for processing are harvested by flooding the bogs with eight to 10 inches of water. A machine with a beater is driven through the bogs to remove the berries from the vines. The cranberries float to the surface and are corralled and conveyed to a truck. Following harvest, growers typically flood the bogs during winter when the vines are dormant. This protects the cranberry vines from frost.
Fresh market cranberries are stored following harvest until it is time to package and ship berries out for the U.S. holiday market. Most cranberry growers sell their production on contract. Most cranberries are sold for processing. Only about 5 percent of the total cranberry crop is sold for fresh fruit.
Domestically, the cranberry industry is dominated by a handful of grower/processors. Ocean Spray, one of the oldest grower-owned cooperative in the United States, represents about 600 cranberry growers in Massachusetts, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington as well as in British Columbia and other parts of Canada.
Cranberries, once traditionally consumed seasonally with holiday turkeys, are now consumed year round in processed forms. About 95 percent of cranberries consumed in the United States are processed, most commonly for juice and juice blends.
Cranberries are used in canned and bottled 100 percent juices and juice blends. Cranberry handlers also market the berries in other forms including frozen, sweetened dried, concentrated and powdered.
A handful of companies purchase cranberries directly from growers. Massachusetts-based Ocean Spray accounts for about 80 percent of raw cranberry purchases. Other handlers include Northland Cranberries, Inc., Wisconsin; Decas Cranberry Products, Massachusetts; Clement Pappas & Company, Inc., New Jersey; and Cliffstar Corporation, New York.
The Cranberry Marketing Committee and the Federal Cranberry Marketing Order were established in 1962 to regulate cranberry production in the ten states cranberries are commercially grown. The committee has the authority to allot production quotas to approximately 1,200 producers who sell to 18 handlers and/or processors.
The United States was a net exporter of cranberries in 2012; processed cranberries valued at nearly $116.7 million were shipped overseas. The leading buyers were the Netherlands and Canada, followed by the United Kingdom and Australia. Fresh cranberries valued at more than $17.4 million, down 9 percent from 2011, were also exported. Most of these cranberries were shipped to Canada and South Korea, followed by Japan and the Netherlands. (FAS)
The United States imports some cranberries, mainly from Canada. The majority of the imported cranberries in 2012 were fresh and valued at nearly $72.8 million, a 43 percent jump from the previous year. In addition, processed cranberries valued at more than $22.7 million and frozen cranberries valued at nearly $15.3 million were imported. (FAS)
Cranberries: Not Just for the Holidays Anymore, Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook, Economic Research Service (ERS), USDA, 2001.
Global Agricultural Trade System, Foreign Ag Service, USDA.
How Cranberries Grow, University of Massachusetts Cranberry Station.
Noncitrus Fruits and Nuts, National Agricultural Statistics Service, USDA.
Links checked September 2013.