Functional ingredient supply unharmed by Gustav

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Manufacturers of ingredients for functional foods and dietary supplements this week confirmed that their facilities have escaped damage from Hurricane Gustav, resulting in little or no interruption to operations.

There had been fears that the hurricane, which ripped through Cuba before hitting the US on Monday, would echo the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina around New Orleans almost three years ago to the day.

But Gustav weakened to a category two storm before making landfall west of New Orleans, and was later downgraded to a tropical storm.

NutraCea, which supplies rice bran, Omega Protein, which supplies omega-3, and the Wright Group, which supplies a range of functional ingredients, all confirmed this week that their facilities did not sustain any damage from the hurricane.

Close call

NutraCea has rice bran stabilization plants in Mermentau and Lake Charles Louisiana, which the firm confirmed were unaffected.

The company’s chief operating officer, Leo Gingras, said that employees at the plants were under mandatory evacuation earlier this week, but operations were expected to return to normal by today.

Omega Protein, which claims to be a leading producer of omega-3 fish oil, has facilities in Louisiana and Mississippi. The firm said that these had suffered no property damages from Hurricane Gustav other than some “immaterial items” ​that will not affect its operations.

The Wright Group, which supplies custom nutritional ingredients and formulations to the functional food and supplements industries, said its main manufacturing facility in Louisiana also escaped relatively unscathed.

The firm said the facility had briefly lost power on Monday after the eye of the hurricane passed between Crowley and Lafayette, but back-up power was initiated and no damage occurred. The group’s president and CEO Sam Wright confirmed that there were no manufacturing delays and service to customers continues as normal.

Other food ingredients

Louisiana is also a major sugar-producing region, with a sugar industry worth $1.7bn. It produces about 20 percent of the sugar beets and cane grown in the US with about 27,000 employees involved in the production and processing alone, according to the American Sugar Cane League​.

The crop is produced on nearly 450,000 acres of land in the state and there were some reports of fields of sugarcane being flattened by the storm.

Sugar analysts said earlier this week that they thought the state’s crop had probably not sustained enough damage from Gustav to affect prices. However, they stressed that it took several days to assess damage from Hurricane Rita, and it took three weeks after Hurricane Katrina had flooded New Orleans.

New Orleans is one of the US’s largest coffee-handling ports. The Mississippi River, the cheapest route for the shipping of many crops and other commodities destined for overseas and domestic markets, was inaccessible in parts. Commodity supplies, especially sugar and coffee, were disrupted.


The food industry has strong links with New Orleans, where this year’s Institute of Food Technologists conference was held. Organizers said it has historically been a “great host city” for IFT members and it was last in New Orleans in 2005, just three weeks before Katrina.

During the 2008 Annual Meeting & Food Expo, IFT members helped to fight hunger in South Louisiana by participating in community-based programs to advance IFT’s mission of providing safe, plentiful and nutritious food to those in need through a variety of programs.

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