What if 90% of your business all occurred over the span of 2 days? Historically, this was the situation for Ocean Spray based on the consumption seasonality of the cranberry market.

    A debate could take place about canned vs. fresh cranberries, but the reality of the situation is that within the US, nearly 90% of cranberry consumption occurred at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Any disruption over this period could be catastrophic to their business. Some issues that have plagued the cranberry market include:

    • Supply chain issues
    • Operational issues
    • Quality issues (in 1959, an herbicide contamination issue resulted in $0 sales… that’s correct $0)

    Key Questions

    • Do we understand our risks?
    • Have we defined likelihood and business impact if a specific risk occurs?
    • Have we taken steps to minimize risks or track leading indicators?

    These risks drove the market, and more specifically, Ocean Spray, to begin to focus on innovation to minimize business risk.

    How can you innovate to minimize risk?

    This was a unique challenge for the cranberry industry, as the answer required product innovation. A business with a broader product/service portfolio could address risk with new offers, bundles, incremental services, etc., but this is problematic for a grower co-op.  The structure that focusses solely on one product comes with unique exposure. In this case, product innovations came in unique forms that served different customer segments.

    Ocean Spray was also been an integral part of a viral skateboarding TikTok video, and subsequent trend, that occurred in 2020. “Gliding serenely down the highway with only a bottle of Ocean Spray Cran-Raspberry for company, Nathan Apodaca’s intoxicating ode to Fleetwood Mac swiftly went viral, racking up nearly 26 million views on TikTok.” – The Drum. Ocean Spray delivered Apodaca a new car and many extra bottles of Cran-Raspberry after the video’s popularity soared. Ocean Spray’s CEO also took part in the trend, creating his own skateboarding version of the viral video, ultimately helping Ocean Spray capitalize off of the success of the original TikTok video.

    Key Questions

    • What are our potential vectors of innovation? Product? Service? Portfolio? Adjacencies?
    • Have we explored innovation by product and market and customer?
    • How do we manage both incremental and transformational innovation?

    What can we learn from the cranberry?

    Risk exists in all markets and there are smart marketers addressing those risks in unique ways. Innovation to address risk can take many forms from segment to product to market. Some solutions may be incremental (i.e., product features, manufacturing process), which means that these innovations are typically safer in implementation but may not solve underlying issues. Other solutions are transformational and those come with risks of their own (i.e., new markets, new channels, new customers, new internal processes). Either way, the process of exploring options can lead to differentiated solutions.

    Inspired by “Canned or Homemade? America’s Biggest Cranberry Company Wins Either Way.” The Journal, WSJ, November 11 2023, https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-journal/id1469394914?i=1000635728556.

    Contact Market Edge to help your organization minimize risks and identify areas for innovation within your market in 2024.