Sweetener success brings award for Tate & Lyle

Related tags Sucralose Sugar substitute Splenda Tate

The boss of UK starch and sugar group Tate & Lyle, currently
enjoying booming sales for its sweetener 600 times sweeter than
sugar, has hooked the European Businessman of the Year award from
leading US business magazine Forbes.

Ex-Unilever chief executive Iain Ferguson took the helm of Tate & Lyle in 2003. Under his tutelage the firm gained the necessary leverage in December 2004 to re-enter the FTSE 100 index after a seven-year hiatus.

The magazine highlights Ferguson's influence in shifting the direction of Tate & Lyle 'from a primarily commodities business in sugars and starches into higher-margin deals with large food companies to supply the ingredients consumers do not notice until they are gone.'

Growing the added value sweetener business has helped Tate & Lyle offset some of the vagaries experienced at its other operations, such as the significantly higher raw material prices for wheat and corn which particularly impacted Amylum, the group's European cereal sweetener and starch business, in the second half of 2003.

In December the FTSE International, the index compilers, promoted the sweeteners company - after a seven year absence - into the FTSE 100.

Stocks with a market capitalisation greater than the 90th biggest stock in the blue chip FTSE 100 index are automatically included into the index while stocks lower than 110th are demoted.

Such is the success of the company's sucralose sugar replacer Splenda, used by international players like PepsiCo, General Mills and Unilever, that Tate & Lyle warned at the end of last year that it would prioritise needs of existing customers as demand for the additive 'far exceeds our expectations.'

Rationing supplies, the British firm said it would not be taking on any new customers in the US until the Alabama plant extension in 2006 and the new Singapore plant in 2007 come on line.

Sucralose is permitted in 40 countries, but has only recently been accepted onto the EU25 market through an amendment to the 1994 EU Sweeteners Directive (94/35/EC), cleared in February this year.

The market for the ingredient (E955) holds considerable potential as rising health concerns drive consumers towards sugar free products and food makers introduce zero-calorie or low-calorie sugar substitutes into their new product formulations.

Market analysts Freedonia​ predict growth of intensity sweeteners at around 8.3 per cent year on year until 2008, with sales rising from a small base of $81m in 1998 to $189m in 2008.

Previous winners of the Forbes award include Vivendi's Jean-René Fourtou, Vodafone CEO Chris Gent, and Peugeot CEO Jean-Martin Folz.

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