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PureCircle reaps rewards for Reb A contracts in H1

By Sarah Hills , 04-Mar-2009

Reb A producer PureCircle has reported a net profit increase of 75 per cent for the first half of 2009 after securing major contracts with companies including PepsiCo, Whole Earth and Cargill ahead of regulatory clearance in key markets.

The company, which announced its financial results today, said that net profit after tax and minority was $2m in the six months from 1 July to 31 December 2008, compared to $1.2m in H1 2008.

 

Revenues were up 49 per cent to $21.6m, compared to $14.5m the previous year which it believes reflected increasing demand for its natural sweeteners, that are derived from the stevia leaf.

 

PureCirlce said that last year it had overcome the key hurdles of regulatory clearances, product launches by major food and beverage producers and consumer pull-through, which had “established beyond a doubt that there is a market”.

 

This demand is expected to increase further with anticipated regulatory approval in European markets.

 

However, PureCircle said that the challenge now was to step up supply and successfully scale-up the business in order to take advantage of the global market for Reb A, which it believes is worth $10bn.

 

Regulatory authorities in the US, Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland have already cleared the path for Reb A to be used in food and beverages, but in the EU the regulatory cogs are still turning following submissions to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in September 2007.

 

William Mitchell, PureCircle’s finance director, told FoodNavigator.com: “They are progressing well now and we are having fairly consistent feedback.

“A number of countries are looking to adopt early, particularly France and the UK.”

He predicted that this would happen before the end of 2009.

 

Similarly the company is yet to feel the full impact of the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) no objection to GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status for Reb A at 95 percent purity in late December. This was followed by an ‘unprecedented rate’ of products sweetened with Reb A, including PepsiCo’s SoBe LifeWater and The Coca-Cola Company’s Sprite Green.

 

Mitchell said: “Our results to 31st December do not include the series of very strong launches that have happened since then.

“All these have come through in January, February and March 2009.”

So, looking ahead, Mitchell added: “The consensus estimate for 2009 is a much stronger second half as all the main F&B product launches have happened in that second half.

 

He added that PureCircles performance in H1 2009 was underpinned by the contracts with PepsiCo, Whole Earth (a subsidiary of Merisant) and Cargill

 

Increasing capacity

 

Meanwhile, the company said in its financial statement: “With the market firmly established, our priority now is to ensure that we successfully scale-up the business to meet the expected demand and to ensure that we maintain our industry leading position.”

 

The group said its expanded 4,000 MT (from 1000 MT) extraction plant in China will be operational as scheduled in April 2009 and the extension of its refinery in Malaysia to 2,000 MT is set for completion by the end of 2009.

 

Similarly, it said that progress continues in diversifying leaf sources, particularly in Kenya and Paraguay, and investigating plantation-scale growing opportunities across regions including South East Asia and South America and Africa.

 

PureCircle said that FY2008 sales included $5m of crude stevia extract sales in China now discontinued, therefore like-for-like sales growth was over 127 per cent.

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