Company news Cargill has completed engineering for a planned expansion of its OptaFlex natural chondroitin sulfate facility in Denver. OptaFlex chondroitin sulfate is a natural proprietary form of chondroitin sulfate that is designed to deliver superior taste and functionality in food and supplement applications. "Chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine are cornerstones of the joint health market, and Cargill has a strong and growing market presence with both products," said Ted Ziemann, president of Cargill Health & Food Technologies. Previously, Cargill announced the GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) status of its OptaFlex natural chondroitin sulfate. The GRAS status permits chondroitin to be used in a variety of foods, including beverages, which has resulted in a number of innovative customer projects. Phosphate technology supplier Astaris is to open a new R&D facility in the St. Louis suburb of Webster Groves in November 2005. The facility will establish an independent R&D environment for Astaris, which currently shares research and product development space with one of its parent companies, Solutia. The new 10,000 sq. ft. building will provide both laboratory facilities and office space to bolster Astaris' product development and optimization capabilities across its entire range of food and technical grade phosphate salts and acids. Chr. Hansen has opened new Middle East and Africa headquarters in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The company has also opened a new office in Bogota, Colombia, to serve customers in Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela. Monsanto has raised its forecast for quarterly earnings from ongoing operations on the strength of its seeds and bioengineering businesses. The St. Louis-based company said that it expects earnings, excluding certain charges, of about $1.05 per share, up from a previous estimate of about $1 per share. Net earnings will range from 12 cents to 17 cents per share, down from a prior estimate of 15 cents to 22 cents per share, it said. Calavo Growersand Limoneira have announced equity cross-investments in each other's operations in order to create an agribusiness alliance that brings together the leading packer and marketer of avocados with one of its industry's largest growers. Under the agreement, Calavo, the global leader in the marketing of fresh and processed avocados and other perishable food products, acquires approximately 15 percent ownership interest in Limoneira, and becomes the company's single-largest shareholder. Meanwhile, D.D. Williamson has expanded its liquid product line for the Asian market. The company has expanded its Class III product line to include additional caramel colors for sauce and brewing applications. "Expanding our Shanghai product options allows us to serve new customers," said Thomas Chan, D.D. Williamson regional sales manager, Asia. "We now provide more colouring solutions for food and beverage processors." Acquisitions Cargill is set to acquire a sunflower seed crushing facility in Ukraine from consumer food company Chumak. The facility has a capacity of 1,200 MT per day, and would complement Cargill's existing oilseed crushing facility in Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. "Our interest in acquiring the Kahovka sunflower seed crushing facility marks the latest step in our strategy to strengthen our oil crushing capabilities in Ukraine," said Andreas Rickmers, Cargill's country manager in Ukraine. "The new facility has an excellent geographic location for both the national and export markets." Naturexhas acquired Pure World for $36.8 million. Upon completion of the transaction, expected in late July 2005, New Jersey-based Pure World will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Naturex. Pure World develops, manufactures and sells botanical extracts are used by the food, flavour and nutraceutical industries. NBTY, a global manufacturer and marketer of nutritional supplements, has acquired all the assets of Solgar Vitamin and Herb for $115 million. Solgar manufactures and distributes nutritional supplements including multivitamins and minerals from its manufacturing facility in New Jersey. "Solgar will strengthen NBTY's presence in the health food store market," said NBTY chairman Scott Rudolph. "It is a significant opportunity for NBTY to grow both domestically and internationally." The transaction is subject to regulatory and other customary approvals and is expected to close by August 2005.