Opta Food Ingredients reported revenue of $6.3 million for the first quarter of the year compared to $6.4 million for the same period last year. Opta Food Ingredients' CEO Arthur J. McEvily explained in a press release that the decrease in revenue was partly caused by the softness in sales to suppliers for a major quick service restaurant due to a continued decline in the restaurant's same store sales, as well as lower sales to two other major customers during the quarter. McEvily said revenue continues to be affected by customer delays in launching new products. Profitability was impacted by a reduction in gross margin to 20 percent of revenue for the quarter, compared with 34 percent for the same period last year as production levels were adjusted in response to lower sales and higher than expected inventory levels, he announced. "Despite a slower first quarter than we would have liked, given the number of new opportunities now in the pipeline, we remain enthusiastic about Opta's prospects for 2001. Expanding and diversifying our customer base to minimize sales fluctuations and fully utilize capacity are key objectives. We made excellent progress in the first quarter with ingredient sales to new customers for use in products such as breakfast cereals, soy-based ice cream and vegetarian burgers, and sales were ahead of plan for a major starch customer. "We are also very pleased with our progress with Nutrinova Nutrition Specialties & Food Ingredients, GmbH and anticipate increased sales in Western Europe, Latin America and Asia Pacific regions during the second half of 2001." Source: Opta Food Ingredients.