Tate & Lyle owns a host of patent rights to the process for manufacturing sucralose and accused a number of US distributors and four Chinese manufacturers of using its patented processes in a case filed in April 2007. But the International Trade Commission (ITC) has cleared the companies of any infringement, effectively granting them access to a market that was previously controlled by Tate & Lyle.
One of those companies that said it will now “aggressively expand production” is Guangdong Food Industry Institute/L&P Food Ingredient Company (GDFII/L&P), represented in the US by its distributor Ingredient Specialties Inc (ISI).
When the ITC’s ruling was made public, director of sales and marketing at ISI Bassam Faress said in a statement that GDFII/L&P is one of few companies whose manufacturing processes have been thoroughly reviewed by the ITC and found to be non-infringing.
“This is very important to keep in mind as it may not be the case with other competitors now in the market,” he said.
Need for assurance
Speaking from his office in California on Thursday, Faress told FoodNavigator-USA.com: “One of the issues we would be faced with now is other companies, rather than those involved with the ITC case, taking advantage from it.
“You have a lot more suppliers unqualified to sell sucralose so we do want to avoid that. That’s going to be an issue – there were some limited exclusions for some companies, so that says to industry that you can’t buy from anyone. There has to be assurance that you have to buy from one of these four companies.”
Increasing demand, increasing supply
Even so, he added that he believes the decision will lead to the expansion of the sucralose market, with food manufacturers more likely to consider using a sweetener which has more than one major supplier.
“I think there are a lot of companies out there that have held back on supplying new products. Companies that have not considered sucralose previously may now be thinking about it,” he said.
Even if the ruling does not expand the number of companies mass producing sucralose beyond Tate & Lyle and the four manufacturers cleared in the case, it has clearly changed the sucralose landscape as these manufacturers look to expand production.
Another manufacturer involved in the case, Niutang Sucralose, recently completed expansion to 300 metric tonnes, and said it would now consider further growth.
JK Sucralose also announced its intention to expand sucralose capacity last month, to 300 metric tonnes by next year. The company produced 200 metric tonnes of sucralose last year.
Faress added that he did not expect GDFII/L&P to achieve the level of business enjoyed by Tate & Lyle, but added that companies might now look to it for a backup supply.
Tate & Lyle has said that it was disappointed by the Commission’s decision but added: “Intellectual property is just one of the many components which define Tate & Lyle’s formidable competitive advantage in the global sucralose business.”
Global sucralose consumption stood at 6,394 tonnes in 2007, according to figures from Euromonitor International. Even in October last year, before the final ITC ruling, it said it expected consumption to climb to 11,765 tonnes by 2011.