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The Bittersweet Truth About Cranberries

Ocean Spray seeks help from a new berry caucus in Congress
The Bittersweet Truth About Cranberries
Photograph by Dennis Welsh/Gallery Stock

Shellfish have one. So do bourbon, rice, and wine. Now cranberries join the ranks of foods and beverages with their own congressional caucus. The fruit’s new 17-member group is led by Senators John Kerry and Scott Brown of Massachusetts, where many U.S. cranberries are grown. Ocean Spray Cranberries, the 700-grower cooperative, is located there, too. Cranberries are a $2.5 billion business in the U.S.; Ocean Spray claimed $1.5 billion of that in 2011. “This caucus will provide a platform for the cranberry industry to educate members of Congress and the public about the health benefits of cranberries,” Brown said in a June 6 statement announcing the launch.

The caucus will be busy: Cranberry juice is in danger of being considered just another sugary drink at a time when they’re under attack. The problem, says Randy Papadellis, Ocean Spray’s chief executive officer, is that cranberries aren’t naturally sweet. So his company adds sugar to its products. Ocean Spray’s cranberry juice cocktail is only 27 percent juice. A 12-ounce glass has 12 teaspoons of sugar and 200 calories. That’s more than cola and orange juice (its sugar isn’t added), which each have 10 teaspoons of sugar and 160 calories, according to the Harvard School of Public Health.