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Merisant to exit bankruptcy

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 16-Sep-2009

Tabletop sweetener company Merisant has announced that it will exit bankruptcy after it filed for Chapter 11 protection in January in order to strengthen its “financial health and long-term prospects.”

In January, Merisant said that filing for bankruptcy would allow it to free up more cash to invest in its stevia-derived PureVia sweetener. Now the company has said that it expects to emerge from bankruptcy as early as January 1, 2010. It has filed its Plan of Reorganization and Disclosure Statement with the US Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware.

The company’s chairman and chief executive officer Paul Block said: “The filing of the Plan and Disclosure Statement is an important milestone in Merisant’s restructuring. The Plan will permit Merisant to exit bankruptcy with significantly reduced debt, poised for growth and prepared to reassert its global leadership role in the low-calorie tabletop sweetener category.”

Merisant, whose brands include the sweeteners Equal and Canderel, has faced stiff competition in recent years from rival sweeteners such as Splenda, which is said to have eaten into its market share.

According to Moody’s Investors Service, Merisant sales were approximately $277m for the twelve months ended September 30, 2008.

Moody’s said in January that global competition from the sucralose sweetener brand Splenda has eroded sales and market share for Merisant over the past several years. However, it added that sales of PureVia were likely to offset any decline in aspartame-based sweeteners.

Merisant said that it has continued to operate its business as usual “without material disruption” during the bankruptcy case.

Merisant was one of two applicants (the other being Cargill) that notified the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that Reb A, which is made from the stevia leaf, should have GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status for use in food and beverages.

And in December, Merisant and Cargill, both received official notification of no objection from the FDA, opening up the stevia market.

Last year the Whole Earth Sweetener Company (a subsidiary of Merisant), along with PepsiCo, and PureCircle, launched the PureVia brand of Reb A.

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