Why Are Cranberry Sauce Labels Upside-Down?

cranberry sauce labels upside down

Getty Ebenezer Scrooge from Radio City Entertainment's "A Christmas Carol" creates and enjoys the "Scrooge Sandwich" (Turkey, Pastrami, Muenster Cheese, Deli Mustard, on Rye bread, with a side of Cranberry Sauce) at the Stage Door Deli in New York City. "A Christmas Carol" plays at the Theater at Madison Square Garden through December 29th, the "Scrooge Sandwich" is also available through the 29th at the Stage Door Deli.

Happy Thanksgiving! If you’re running out of conversation starters for your family, friends or cat as you recover from turkey dinner, here’s one for you: Why are cranberry sauce labels upside-down?

It’s a longtime mystery that popped up online again in 2021 when buyers noticed that the labels on jellied cranberry sauce are flipped. The rounded edge, which for most cans is on the bottom, is on the top for cans of Ocean Spray cranberry sauce. Ocean Spray told CNN Business the labeling process is strategic and intentional. It makes preparation easier, according to the company spokesperson. They once changed the canning method, but customers complained it made removing the cranberry sauce properly makes it more difficult, AdWeek reported.

If you were looking for cranberry sauce at your grocery store this Thanksgiving and couldn’t find it, you weren’t alone. CNN Business reported that supply chain issues were causing more retailers than usual to run out of supply.

Here’s what you need to know:

Filling Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce Cans Upside-Down Creates an Air Bubble That Keeps the Log of Cranberry Sauce Intact

The Ocean Spray cranberry sauce cans are “filled and labeled upside down with the rounded edge on top and the sharp can-like edge on the bottom to keep the jelly whole,” an Ocean Spray spokesperson said, according to CNN Business.

An air bubble is created on the rounded side – the top – so the person preparing the cranberry sauce is able to “swipe the edge of the can with a knife to break the vacuum and the log will easily slide out,” the spokesperson said, according to CNN Business.

The spokesperson further explained to AdWeek that the cans are filled with the rounded edge on the top because “there’s an air bubble vacuum on the rounded side, which makes it easier to get the sauce out in one whole log.”

The “head space” created in the filling process makes the cranberry sauce come out intact easily, the spokesperson said.

AdWeek reported that Ocean Spray briefly changed to a two-piece can in 2005, but the company received “significant consumer feedback that they couldn’t get the sauce out in a log.”

“Ocean Spray does not see this as a problem that needs solving—by filling sauce this way, it creates space in the bottom of the can to minimize the vacuum effect caused due to the mass of the product,” the spokesperson told AdWeek. “Without it, there’d be a lot more frustrated customers trying to shake or having to spoon it out.”

Supply Chain Issues Caused Shortages of Cranberry Sauce in Some Stores

AdWeek reported that 76% of American consumers purchased cranberry sauce for the holidays. But some had it on their list and weren’t able to make the purchase, according to CNN Business.

“The sauce has 79% availability across national retailers, which is down from 89% in that same period, according to IRI, a market research firm that tracks US retail sales,” CNN Business reported.

Ocean Spray is “a farmer co-operative,” making cranberry sauce in addition to selling cranberries by the bag. Ocean Spray told CNN Business that because of supply chain issues, “consumers may experience some availability issues at times on a variety of cranberry products,” but noted they do not expect “significant impacts” on product availability. Now that’s something to be grateful for.

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