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Ocean Spray, best known for its fruit juices, snacks and cranberry sauce to accompany Thanksgiving turkeys, has taken a new approach to transporting those products to market.
The cooperative of more than 700 family-owned growers has partnered with Uber Freight, which has quickly become one of Ocean Spray’s top five transportation service providers in under a year.
“We try to stay on top of emerging trends in the industry, so when we received a call from Uber Freight, we followed up on it,” said Earl Larson, Ocean Spray’s vice president of global supply chain and operations.
“We started out small in the spot market, and we were able to integrate their process with our tendering system,” he said. “They earned a small amount of freight, started to prove themselves and earned more and more.”
Uber Freight is a digital freight broker that connects small carriers with shippers through its mobile application to enable on-demand logistics services.
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“Amid soaring consumer demand and increases in transportation costs, shippers are hungry for supply-chain innovation,” said Bill Driegert, head of operations at Uber Freight.
Ocean Spray’s freight is 75% over-the-road truckload, along with some intermodal and less-than-truckload freight.
“These carriers represent our brand and 700 family farms, so we are selective as to who we utilize,” Larson said. “As Uber Freight has proven that the cost is right and the service is right, it has grown to the point where we are 1,500 loads and growing, and growing pretty fast.”
While that still is a relatively small portion of Ocean Spray’s total freight, it is growing rapidly, he said.
Uber Freight is currently servicing more than 14 origin points, and Ocean Spray is open to expanding that number where it makes sense.
Ocean Spray operates 10 facilities that process fruit and nine distribution centers in North America.
Uber Freight does not handle raw fruit, which must be delivered in 36 hours. The third-party carriers booking loads through Uber Freight are involved in the final step of Ocean Spray’s process — delivering finished goods to stores.
When soliciting carriers to bid on a lane, Ocean Spray provides information on volume, seasonality and other variables. As Ocean Spray evaluates those bids, service history and tender acceptance rate are important factors.
“When Uber Freight is on the lane, we almost always get acceptance from them,” Larson said.
Ocean Spray and Uber Freight conduct quarterly meetings to discuss their ongoing freight partnership.
“As long as the service is cost effective, customer friendly and efficient, we are open to grow with them,” Larson said.
Uber, which rose to prominence with its mobile app for securing passenger-car rides on demand, has targeted freight transportation as an important growth market in its efforts to expand its business.
“Uber’s technology fundamentally changed how people and things move around cities,” Driegert said. “Taking that technology and our deep expertise in balancing supply and demand and introducing it into the freight industry was a logical extension.”
Uber’s technology has been a key selling point for Ocean Spray, which said it has seen tangible benefits from the partnership in its cost and efficiency metrics, as well as through feedback from carriers.
“We are very happy with their capabilities of using technologies,” Larson said. “It fits right in with our general business plan.”
Looking forward, Larson sees the partnership continuing for as long as it benefits Ocean Spray.
“There is more room to grow,” he said.