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Solbar seeks to strengthen position in US health and nutrition market

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 07-Jun-2011

Israeli soy ingredients company Solbar is looking to expand its presence in the United States, where it sees particular opportunities for non-GM and hexane-free protein isolates in the health and nutrition market.

The company has four manufacturing facilities around the world – two in Israel, one in China, and one in South Sioux City, Nebraska. The United States is the biggest global market for soy proteins – an area in which Solbar has been expanding. In 2009, soy proteins represented $72m of its total $161m of sales revenue, growing to $87m of $174m in sales last year.

Newly appointed Solbar USA president Todd Watson told FoodNavigator-USA: “We feel at this time we have a very good tasting functional product…We have got our eye on the nutritional segment. We see [functional nutrition bars and infant formula] as our opportunity.”

Hexane-free

The company also intends to offer isolated soy proteins from its Nebraska facility that are hexane-free, using different pressing techniques for extraction. The resulting soy protein isolates are likely to be about three times the price of those using the more straightforward hexane extraction method, but this is an area where the company envisages growing US demand, particularly for high-end products such as nutrition bars and infant formula.

“I believe that the hexane-free marketplace is an opportunity for us to grow our business, particularly with branded companies that have designs on the natural marketplace,” Watson said.

Providing choices

He added that the company is primarily focused on non-GM (genetically modified) soy, but there is flexibility within its Nebraska plant.

“We have got a generation of well-informed and proactive consumers taking health into their own hands and doing what they can…I think those items such as hexane-free manufacturing and non-GMO beans for manufacturing gives those consumers more choices to take control of their own diets.”

Speaking with international press in Israel last week, Solbar said it is still in the early stages of production in the United States, but is working hard to increase its business in North America following the acquisition of its Nebraska facility for $7.75m in August last year.

“This is a business that’s perched for further growth but I am not sure that everyone in the US is aware of Solbar’s 50 years in the business,” Watson said. “…We fit a very unique spot in the marketplace. We have got a sound and solid scientific team both in the development of new products for our customers and for products designed specifically for them.”

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