The world’s largest sucralose manufacturer, Tate & Lyle, owns a host of patent rights to the process for making sucralose. It accused a number of US distributors and Chinese manufacturers of using its patented processes in a case filed with the International Trade Commission (ITC) in April 2007. The final ruling, given in April this year, cleared them of infringing Tate & Lyle’s patents, effectively granting them access to a market that had previously been controlled by the sugar giant.
However, the president of BioPlus Life Sciences, Sundeep Aurora, claims that the high-profile patent case has caused confusion for food makers. For instance, it has been suggested that they could remain wary about securing an alternative sucralose supply from companies that were not cleared in the ITC case.
But BioPlus Life Sciences – which was not involved in the case and expects to be producing 180 metric tonnes of its Solo Sucralose a year by March – has said that it has 28 patents pending for its manufacturing processes and that they are “substantially different” from Tate & Lyle’s.
Aurora told FoodNavigator-USA.com: “It’s a business we have been working on for nine years…The ITC case only added to the confusion with people thinking that Tate is the only company with patents out there…We have filed our patents in India, in China, the EU and North America.”
In fact, he said that the patent claims that BioPlus has submitted could cause problems for other sucralose manufacturers because they will also need to ensure they are not infringing its patents.
“Our strategy is to be a credible second source for sucralose and to continue to build capacity over time as demand for sucralose grows,” he said.
Aurora added that he thinks sucralose safety standards need to be tightened as more manufacturers enter the market in order to ensure a the viability of other sucralose sources for food and beverage makers.
“If one was to conduct a sample test on quality and stability you can easily tell one product from another,” he said. “The FCC [Food Chemicals Codex] monograph does not take cognizance of the quality of this particular product…The FCC monograph has not changed because Tate was the only supplier for a long time and they had an excellent product, so they didn’t bother.
“Independent companies should be doing their own tests and I would encourage them to do that…I think that is why companies don’t want to just switch away from Tate. And rightly so.”
BioPlus claims that its Solo Sucralose meets or exceeds specifications for purity and sensory criteria set out by the Food and Drug Administration, the FCC, US Pharmacopeia, and the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA).
John Hulsey director of supplier relations and purchasing at Mays Chemical Company – the newly named exclusive distributor of Solo Sucralose in the US –said: “Many of our existing customers need the supply assurance that comes with a legitimate second source of sucralose and we are pleased to help meet that need.”
Global sucralose consumption stood at 6,608 tonnes in 2008, up from 4321 tonnes in 2003, 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.