The stabilized rice bran (SRB) expert, which has just emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and seen five former executives exit amid allegations of financial irregularities, halved net losses in 2010 but still owes some creditors money.
Speaking to investors in a conference call on Friday afternoon, senior vice president of sales Colin Garner said there was a lot of potential for stabilized rice bran in gluten-free baking applications and improving texture in processed meat and meat-free products.
But bosses were particularly excited by the potential of defatted rice bran to cut fat in coatings and batters by reducing oil uptake during frying, cutting costs and improving the nutritional profile of products such as chicken nuggets, he said.
President and chief operating officer Leo Gingras added: “Our longer-term vision is to develop a food ingredient business for defatted rice bran thus converting low-margin bulk feed sales into higher-margin human food sales.
“We will be expanding our production capacity for rice bran oil to 85,000t of raw rice bran input. This will provide at least 2,500t of additional rice bran oil and 12,500t of defatted bran to market annually.”
Producing rice lecithin – which had an advantage over soy lecithin given its non allergenic and non-GMO credentials – would require the installation of a new drier – expected by the end of 2011, he said. However, a new oil distillation system that would enable NutraCea to produce a new anti-oxidant-rich rice bran oil might take longer.
$15.7m net loss in 2010
The firm, which posted a modest rise in consolidated gross profit to $7m on sales down 4.8 percent to $31.6m in 2010, halved its net losses in 2010, making a net loss of $15.7m compared with a $32m net loss in 2009.
While its rice bran oil bio-refining business in Brazil was “operationally cash flow positive in 2010”, chief executive John Short said he would not be satisfied until all segments of the business were generating positive cash flow and earning attractive returns for shareholders.
NutraCea hit the headlines in January after its former chief executive and four other staff members were charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) with overstating sales figures in the 2007 accounts.
Four of the five executives in question agreed to settle the SEC's charges against them in January without admitting or denying the allegations.
New bosses were finally able to “put this matter behind us” last month when former chief financial officer Todd Crow entered into a settlement and release agreement with NutraCea, relinquishing his shares and share options in the firm and withdrawing all outstanding claims against it.
Unlocking the potential of rice bran
NutraCea produces a range of products from rice bran including nutty-flavored frying and dipping oils and soluble and insoluble fibers for food and drink applications.
It also makes dietary supplements rich in antioxidants, essential fatty acids, phytosterols and minerals including potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, zinc and gamma oryzanol.
Rice bran is the outer layer of the brown rice kernel after the husk has been removed and was until recently regarded as waste by-product of commercial rice-milling.