How Ocean Spray’s Canned Cranberry Sauce Found Its Way Onto So Many Holiday Tables

Last year around this time, legendary chef Jacques Pépin dropped by the Rachael Ray TV show to help prepare some traditional holiday fare. “Thanksgiving is the biggest holiday for me,” the courtly Pépin said in his untamed French accent. Then a hint of frustration crept into Pépin’s voice as he admitted that, even though he makes a sumptuous cranberry relish from scratch, “my wife wants this.

ocean spray cranberry sauce screenchow

He was pointing to a can of cranberry sauce.

It is the culinary enigma of the winter holidays. Though this is arguably the one time of year when home cooks go the extra mile in the kitchen—turning out toilsome turkeys, picture-perfect pies and all variety of side dishes made from scratch—cranberry sauce from the can not only gets a pass, it usually gets a prominent place on the table, where it sways and waggles in all of its can-shaped splendor.

getty images: ocean spray adweek

Got sauce? After cranberry sauce was served to Union troops in the Civil War (left), demand for the food grew until Marcus Urann (inset) began selling his Ocean Spray strained cranberry sauce in cans (above). Though it’s hardly necessary to get Americans to like cranberry sauce, Ocean Spray does try to educate the public about how cranberries are grown with this portable bog (far left) that travels around the country during the holidays.
Bog: NY Daily News via Getty Images; Archival: Courtesy of Ocean Spray; Civil War: Getty Images