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SunOpta Q4 loss narrows on health and wellness trend

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 10-Mar-2010

Canadian natural and organics group SunOpta has reported a narrower loss in the fourth quarter of 2009, attributing improvement to restructuring and continued consumer interest in health and wellness.

The firm reported a loss of $2.2m for the quarter, compared to a $17.05m loss for the same period a year ago. Since then, it has aimed to restructure its business in a number of ways, including most recently expanding into the South African soy ingredients market.

The company’s president and CEO Steve Bromley said in a statement: "We are very pleased with the continued improvement in operating results within our core business segments. Our balance sheet continues to improve with reduced working capital levels and net reductions in debt.”

Revenue rose slightly from $245m in Q4 2008, to $245.5m in the latest quarter, ended December 31. Like many other companies, SunOpta has been looking to increase liquidity – the availability of assets that are easily able to be converted to cash – and reduce debts to create a buffer against volatile commodity markets during the recession.

Bromley added: “We remain focused on improving operating margins and return on assets employed and are very pleased that our extensive restructuring and repositioning initiatives are having a positive effect on our results. We are confident that this focus, when combined with growing consumer interest in health and wellness, positions our company for long-term success. We are looking forward to a return to profitability in 2010."

Market researchers have suggested that consumer appetite for health and wellness ingredients is heightened during times of economic crisis, as people prepare more foods at home and become more concerned about their overall health.

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