Belgian firm Cosucra Groupe Warcoing is exiting the sugar beet processing business to concentrate entirely on added value ingredients for health foods.
The family company, which makes ingredients from chicory, yellow pea and sugar beet, is to expand its inulin and oligofructose activities by reconverting a sugar refinery in the north of France (St Germainmont) to a modern chicory extraction plant.
And it will no longer be active in traditional sugar beet processing, it said this week.
The Warcoing Group started processing sugar beet in the mid-1800s, only adding a natural ingredient range 15 years ago. However it claims to be the first company in the world to produce inulin, beginning in 1986.
The prebiotic fibre is included in an increasing number of foods, such as yoghurt, biscuits, chocolate and baby food, and today inulin or oligofructose is found in more than 1000 food products. The ingredient can lead to a fibre, prebiotic and calcium health claim, depending on markets.
However Cosucra, which also makes protein isolates and fibre ingredients from peas, and natural sweeteners, is establishing its health focus somewhat late compared to fellow Benelux-based inulin suppliers. Belgium's Orafti last year created a new business unit called Innergy Foods to market prebiotic food supplements to the consumer market. It has the well-established Beneo brand, part of a communication initiative to market the health benefits of inulin, and its parent group, Raffinerie Tirlemontoise/Tiense Suikerraffinaderij, has a turnover of €200 million compared to Cosucra's €90 million.
Still, Cosucra has a sales and technical network in more than 33 countries and says it has made significant investments in food safety and quality monitoring programmes. It is also likely to benefit from the increasing research into prebiotics as it builds a position in the health ingredients market.