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Ocean Spray CEO on cranberries during the holiday season

Jeremy Hobson Nov 24, 2011

Jeremy Hobson: Well in addition to being a day to give thanks for what we have, today is also a day for eating. And we’re going to talk food now with someone whose food products are going to be found on many dinner tables in America today.

Randy Papadellis. He’s the president and CEO of Ocean Spray, and he joins us now from Lakeville, Massachusetts. Good Morning.

Randy Papadellis: Good morning. How are you, Jeremy?

Hobson: Great. Well let me ask you, because it’s Thanksgiving, let’s start by talking about cranberries. You’re the biggest producer of them, did more than $2 billion in sales last year. How much of that happens during Thanksgiving week?

Papadellis: Well, you know, surprisingly, cranberries sell somewhat equally throughout the year. Certainly our cranberry sauce products are sold primarily at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Hobson: Why do you think cranberries are so associated with Thanksgiving?

Papadellis: I think the fact that they were on the table at the first Thanksgiving here in Plymouth I think has a lot to do with the folklore surrounding cranberries. We like to say that the cranberry is to the month of November what the pumpkin is to the month of October.

Hobson: A lot of companies that make food products are being impacted by the rising price of commodities, the rising price of the ingredients that they use. Is that something that you have to worry about?

Papadellis: Absolutely. We’re in the tough situation right now where much of what we buy, whether it be the plastic for our bottles, the other fruit concentrates that we blend with cranberries, the corrogate, the packaging that we put our products in — all of those are up significantly on a global basis. We’re paying a lot more for our inputs, but because of the state of the economy, we’re unable to pass those prices along to customers.

Hobson: When you look at the global economy right now and you’ve got a China that is growing very rapidly, some people think that there may be a bubble going on over there; you’ve got Europe and its debt crisis; you’ve got gridlock in Washington. How do those things impact you as a seller of food products?

Papadellis: Perhaps the biggest way it impacts us is in the way it might impact our customers. If our consumers take the uncertainty of the global economy and translate that into their purchasing habits, that will have an impact on our sales rate. Businesses don’t like uncertainty and if we can limit that uncertainty, we’re in a better position.

Hobson: What about taxes? So much of the debate right now in Washington is about not wanting to tax the job creators, as some call them and some would call you, and that that’s really the main issue that’s making you — a job creator — make a decision. Is that true?

Papadellis: I would say it’s less about the taxes that we pay in North America and more about the trade barriers that might exist between countries. We’ve got various parts of the world that for whatever reason are imposing tariffs on U.S. cranberries that are making it harder for us to sell and compete in various parts of the world.

Hobson: Finally, how many days a year do you think you can consumer cranberries?

Papadellis: Every day.

Hobson: Really?

Papadellis: I have a glass of cranberry juice every morning.

Hobson: Wow.

Papadellis: It’s dedication. I happen to love cranberries. It’s such a treat to be able to work for a company that you actually thoroughly enjoy the product, and I’ve been working here for 10 years and I’m not sick of it yet.

Hobson: Well Randy Papadellis, president and CEO of Ocean Spray, thanks so much and happy Thanksgiving.

Papadellis: Thanks Jeremy.

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