Talking Points

Talking Points

Ocean Spray to spend $2m a year on medical research into cranberries

Cranberries at this bog were slated for use in Ocean Spray juice.
Peter Pereira/Associated Press/file 2014
Cranberries at this bog were slated for use in Ocean Spray juice.

When you dig into cranberry sauce this Thanksgiving, you’re doing your part to help Massachusetts’ most important fruit, economically speaking.

You probably knew that already. After all, we rank second only to Wisconsin in terms of cranberry production.

But you probably didn’t know that some of your cranberry dollars are also going to medical research.

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Ocean Spray Cranberries just decided to spend at least $10 million over the next five years to study the red berry’s antimicrobial benefits. Cranberries are often used to prevent recurrent UTIs, but their efficacy remains a matter of debate. Executives at the growers’ cooperative envision other potential medical uses. Among them: the rising global health issue of antibiotic resistance.

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This $2 million-a-year commitment reflects the increasing amount of money that Ocean Spray has spent on research in recent years, including with partners such as the Broad Institute and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. The exact amount has varied from year to year. But now Ocean Spray has decided to establish a minimum threshold.

Of course, it’s in Ocean Spray’s self-interest to broaden the reasons shoppers should pick up its crimson-colored products at the supermarket. A spokeswoman says the Lakeville-based cooperative recently reported $2.4 billion in annual revenue, essentially flat when compared with its previous year.

To capitalize on the berry’s healthy attributes, Ocean Spray last month launched Pure — its version of 100 percent, unsweetened cranberry juice. More cranberry power per glass. The company typically sweetens its juices to make the berry’s tart taste more palatable.

You’re welcome to bring it to your Thanksgiving dinner. Me, I’m sticking with cranberry sauce.

Jon Chesto can be reached jon.chesto@globe.com and on Twitter @jonchesto.