Niutang, which has its headquarters and manufacturing base in Changzhou, China, already has a base for mainland Europe in Rotterdam, as well as an office in California, USA. The move into the UK is an interesting one as it will set Niutang firmly on the home turf of Tate & Lyle, which dominates the sucralose market. Since the expiration of product patents and the impending expiration of a key process patent next year, Tate & Lyle has seen competition emerge over sucralose from a number of quarters. The new Nuitang office in the Midlands will be run by Alan Turner, who joins the company this week as sales director for Niutang UK. Turner's credentials include previous employment with DSM's anti infectives and specialty chemicals products, and aspartame producers Holland Sweetener Company. Niutang's product is manufactured in China; material for the European market is shipped to Rotterdam, and that destined for the UK will be forwarded from there. Turner will be setting up warehousing facilities in the UK, will enable a rapid response time to customer orders. At a meeting at IFT in New Orleans this weekend, Turner told FoodNavigator.com that technical support will be available from both the European team, and the team in the US. Ironically, Niutang's booth at the IFT trade was located right next to Tate & Lyle's. Patent issues Niutang and Tate & Lyle are presently involved in a patent dispute over process patents - along with three other sucralose manufacturers and 18 importers and distributors against which Tate & Lyle filed in a lawsuit with the United States International Trade Commission in April 2007. Niutang has vehemently denied the accusations, saying its patents are its own, and its processes were developed with a firm eye on avoiding infringing Tate & Lyle's intellectual property. Following a 90-day extension implemented by ITC Administrative Law Judge Charles Bullock last month, initial determination on the case is now set for September 12, 2008, with a final ruling by the ITC scheduled for no later than January 12, 2009. Competition intensifies Another new stream of competition for Tate & Lyle in the European sucralose market came online at the end of May, when Dublin and Geneva-based Fusion Nutraceuticals, in partnership with Indian pharmaceutical company Alkem, rolled out their product targeting industrial ingredient use. Fusion and Alkem are using expired Tate & Lyle patents to produce its product, and Shane Delaney, CEO at Fusion Nutraceuticals told FoodNavigator.com that they have "gone through significant hoops on the patents and IP" to respect Tate & Lyle's position. The Fusion Nutraceuticals and Alkem partnership bring up to 200 tonnes online (full capacity) of their SucraPlus brand, produced by Alkem's new plant. Tate & Lyle, however, has responded to the newcomer's activities by stating that the expired patents are for first generation processes; it has now advanced to third generation processes.