Success is sweet

by LexisNexis
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Copyright 2009 Gale Group, Inc.
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ASAP Copyright 2009 Schofield Media Ltd.
Food and DrinkĀ 

The NutraSweet Company
Headquarters: Chicago
Employees: 225
Product: Sweeteners

Craig Petray, CEO: "One of our greatest advantages we have over our competition Is our world-class global distribution system."

There are a number of sweetener manufacturers on the market, but few have the brand recognition of The NutraSweet Company. The NutraSweet brand sweetener was first discovered in 1965 at G.D. Searle and Company by researcher James Schlatter, who was working with amino acidsto develop a treatment for ulcers. When he licked his finger to pickup a piece of paper, he experienced an unusually sweet taste. The amino acid combination may not have been a cure for ulcers, but it has led to the creation of one of the most popular sugar substitutes in the world.

This year, the sweetener company celebrates the 28th anniversary of aspartame's introduction to the U.S. market. It was approved in 1981 for use in table-top products and in soft drinks two years later. Since that time, millions of people worldwide have enjoyed the taste of aspartame in more than 5,000 products. "We still feel it's the best-tasting standalone sweetener on the market," CEO Craig Petray says.

'The Sweet Spot'

Aspartame is not the only sweetener developed by NutraSweet. It also sells a sweetener called Neotame, which is 8,000 times sweeter than sugar, according to Petray. "It has a great taste profile, and it offers significant savings over sugar or high-fructose corn syrup," hesays. "We are finding a huge interest and desire from companies all over the world to blend sugar and intense sweeteners to reduce their cost and limit their exposure to these sugar [price] increases. It's usually blended at a level where consumers cannot tell the difference."

NutraSweet develops most of its formulations in a state-of-the-artsweetener blending lab--known as "The Sweet Spot" by its R&D staff- at its Chicago headquarters. "It's here that we blend sugar with various other sweeteners--a lot of Neotame and aspartame--to produce sweetener blends that taste like too percent sugar, with the best taste profiles and fewer calories," Petray says. In addition, NutraSweet's Augusta, Ga., plant soon will be the only remaining high-intensity sweetener plant operating in the United States. Most of its competitors are in Asia, he notes.

Fierce Competition

The newest entrant into the U.S. sweetener market is a product called Stevia, which has competed globally against NutraSweet for many years. Stevia immediately attracted consumers' attention because of its all-natural characteristics, Petray admits. But, "We're also placing a significant effort to produce aspartame using the greenest standards in the sweetener industry--using less energy and emitting less carbon," he says, "which will significantly widen the environmental gapwith our Asian competitors over the next few years."

"In a natural sweetener blend, Stevia can make sense," Petray continues. "But it is more expensive than most sweeteners, and it also carries a licorice note. We found in our work that using Stevia has taste issues--it's difficult to cover up that licorice note. But, it's my view that consumers will decide in the end which products they wantto consume and how much they'll sacrifice to get a low calorie, natural product."

NutraSweet is launching another sweetener called Twinsweet, a patented combination of aspartame and acesulfame that will mainly be usedin the confections, powdered drinks and desserts. However, the company's main focus is expanding Neotame as a global sugar substitute andit expects to see it approved in Europe in 2010. That, combined withits growth in Asia and Latin America, could double NutraSweet's Neotame business in the next couple of years, he reports.

"One of our greatest advantages we have over our competition is our world-class global distribution system," he says. "We are the leading global sweetener brand--in many countries, NutraSweet means great-tasting, low-calorie sweetness." FD.

SODA ASH FROM SOLVAY CHEMICALS INC. Solvay Chemicals' Green River,Wyoming plant began producing soda ash in 1982; its original plant capacity was one million tons per year. Since then, the capacity has increased and now exceeds 2.6MM tons of soda ash per year. While soda ash has many diversified uses, an important application is as an intermediate in the manufacturing of artificial sweeteners used in chocolate, ice cream and soft drinks, among others. Solvay Chemicals' soda ash is Kosher and NSF certified. We are part of the Solvay Group, headquartered in Brussels, Belgium, and the leading producer of soda ashworldwide.
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