HIGH YIELD AND LOW PRICE SWEETEN CRANBERRY FUTURE

LAKEVILLE, Mass. -- All-time high production and availability -- coupled with the lowest prices in three years -- have producers of cranberries pushing end-users to incorporate the berry into as many products as possible.In retail supermarkets, the cranberry's bright red hue is gaining recognition as a staple at the bakery counter, where it is being used in muffins, cookies, cakes and breads, according

LAKEVILLE, Mass. -- All-time high production and availability -- coupled with the lowest prices in three years -- have producers of cranberries pushing end-users to incorporate the berry into as many products as possible.

In retail supermarkets, the cranberry's bright red hue is gaining recognition as a staple at the bakery counter, where it is being used in muffins, cookies, cakes and breads, according to producers.

A recent study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found Americans consumed the fresh-weight equivalent of 1.6 pounds per person in 1996. Sources believe this may be due to the proven health benefits of the tiny fruit.

One of the biggest selling points for cranberries is their ability to maintain their consistency and not bleed into the product, officials said. This allows for greater versatility and explains why cranberries have been popping up in such a variety of baked goods lately, they said.

Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc., based here, one of the nation's leading cranberry producers, estimates that cranberries are found in more than 1% of all new products being added to the market.

The current glut of cranberries has prices lingering below the cost of more traditional bakery fruits. Recent surveys show frozen cranberries used as bakery ingredients cost just over half the price, per pound, of frozen wild blueberries. Sweetened dried cranberries register are just one-fourth the cost of sweetened dried strawberries, per pound (see charts).