Canada (QC): Small cranberry growers diversify while demand catches up

Behind Wisconsin and Massachussetts, the Canadian province of Quebec is the third-largest cranberry-producing region in North America. Much of the growth has come in the last decade, though the latter part of that time period has seen too much fruit for existing demand. Consumption of cranberries and cranberry products is growing, but an oversupply has small growers struggling. As they wait for demand to improve, innovative growers are branching out into new products in order to improve their bottom line.

According to the Quebec Cranberry Growers Association, annual cranberry volumes from the region have just about quadrupled from 2005 to 2015. This coincided with an overall push for more production in North America, and Quebec experienced such a boom in production because its soil and climate made it ideal for cranberry production. Most cranberries are processed, and now many growers are feeling the effects of too much concentrate on the market.

“The very big farms have economies of scale that, even with very low prices, they are well-positioned,” said Jean Olsthoorn, a small grower in Quebec that grows and markets cranberries under the Jardins VMO label. “So there are four or five growers in Quebec, like us, that have begun making some transformations for themselves because of poor prices.” Olsthoorn has been conducting trials with a sugarless dried cranberry product. He's hoping sales to health-conscious consumers can ease some of the strain the glut of concentrate has put on his business. Other growers are experimenting with jams. The idea is to find outlets that complement the usual concentrate and processed market.

“If the dried cranberries sell well, then we will go bigger with that,” said Olsthoorn. “Prices are not high enough on the processed market, so we have to look to make money through diversification.”

For more information:
Jean Olsthoorn
Les Jardins VMO
+1 819 475 3867

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