TORONTO — SunOpta Inc. said it has completed the construction and commissioning of a new value-added organic and specialty cocoa processing facility located in Middenmeer, The Netherlands. The facility, known as “Crown of Holland,” processes internationally sourced cocoa beans into cocoa liquor, butter and powder, and provides needed capacity to accommodate SunOpta’s growing organic and specialty cocoa business that has historically been processed by third parties. The operation will ramp-up production capabilities and volume over the balance of 2013, SunOpta said.

“Vertically integrating into our own dedicated cocoa facility allows us to have increased control over our business and expand our margins, especially as we increase throughput,” said Gerard Versteegh, president of the International Foods Group. “Organic and specialty cocoa products remain a key category for the International Foods Group, and we anticipate above average growth prospects in this segment of the market.”

Steve Bromley, chief executive officer of SunOpta, said the expansion is consistent with the company’s strategy of becoming a “pure play natural and organic foods company, aggressively growing our value-added ingredients and consumer packaged foods portfolio, and leveraging our integrated platform.”

“This dedicated organic and specialty cocoa facility adds to our value-added processing capabilities in our International Foods Group and increases our capacity to service this fast growing market segment,” he said.

The new facility has annual processing capacity of approximately 9,000 tonnes of raw cocoa and is one of the only operations in the world focused 100% on organic and specialty fair trade cocoa products. SunOpta said the plant uses a whole-bean roasting technology, which when combined with globally sourced cocoa bean varieties, provides customers with a range of unique flavor profiles. With the addition of the processing capabilities now in place, SunOpta said it plans to expand its organic and specialty cocoa business and better serve the specialty chocolate industry with certified and specialty cocoa products.