Ocean Spray taps former Pepsi R&D chief to help lead innovation push

Ocean Spray has chosen one of the food and beverage industry’s leading product innovators – Dr. Geoffrey Woolford, who has held the top research and development posts at Pepsi-Cola and Mead Johnson Nutritionals – to help write its brand’s recipe for a new generation of healthy beverages and snacks.

Woolford joined Ocean Spray today as Vice President of Research and Development, selected from a top field of candidates to fill the position left by the retired Y. Steve Henig. He will report to Ken Romanzi, senior VP and chief operating officer of Ocean Spray’s domestic business.

“As we pursue our vision of putting Ocean Spray – in one product form or another – in every household in the U.S., we’re going to need large and equal parts of marketing know-how and scientific excellence,” said Romanzi. “Geoff Woolford brings both to the table.”

Woolford, a native of Great Britain who began his career at Quaker Oats in the late 1970s, was a driving force behind Pepsi’s “total beverage company” strategy in the 1980s and ’90s. Among other successes, he led the development of Aquafina, the number-one brand of bottled water in the U.S. He oversaw all product innovations and introductions for Pepsi’s domestic brands, including Lipton Iced Tea, Frappucino Iced Coffee, All Sport sports drink, Pepsi One, Fruitworks Juice drinks and various carbonated fruit-flavored sodas.

After 14 years with Pepsi, Woolford was recruited in 1999 to Mead Johnson Nutritionals, where he led a series of innovations in infant formulas, other nutritional products and specialty packaging. He also oversaw regulatory and medical affairs for the company. Woolford left Mead Johnson last year, along with much of the company’s upper management team, following its acquisition by Bristol-Myers Squibb.

“Ocean Spray is fortunate to have someone with such a depth and breadth of technical skills, nutritional knowledge, marketing savvy and leadership experience,” said Romanzi. “Our aim is to make Ocean Spray the premier healthy beverage and snack brand, and we will look to Geoff Woolford and his team to create new product platforms in both beverages and foods.”

Woolford holds a PhD from the University of Surrey in his native UK, where he also earned his undergraduate degree in chemistry from the University of Kent.

Ocean Spray has been the top-selling brand name in the bottled juice category since 1981. Ocean Spray posted fiscal 2004 gross sales of roughly $1.4 billion.

Ocean Spray is an agricultural cooperative formed 75 years ago and owned today by more than 800 cranberry growers in Massachusetts, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and other parts of Canada, as well as more than 100 Florida grapefruit growers.