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Opta Food Ingredients Reports Fourth Quarter and 2001 Results

BEDFORD, Mass.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Feb. 21, 2002--Opta Food Ingredients, Inc. (Nasdaq:OPTS), a leading developer and manufacturer of proprietary food ingredients, today reported that revenue for the fourth quarter ended December 31, 2001 was $5.9 million compared with $6.0 million for the comparable 2000 quarter. The net loss for the quarter amounted to $956,000, or $.09 per share, compared with a net loss of $316,000, or $.03 per share, for the same period last year. Results for the latest quarter included a previously announced charge of $389,000, or $.04 per share, for non-recurring costs related to a corporate restructuring that is designed to reduce Opta's cost structure by approximately $1 million annually.

For the year ended December 31, 2001, revenue was $25.0 million compared with $25.8 million in the prior year. The net loss for 2001 was $3.0 million, or $.28 per share, compared with a net loss of $423,000, or $.04 per share, for 2000. In addition to the fourth quarter restructuring charge, 2001 results included a one-time charge of $713,000, or $.07 per share, recorded in the third quarter for the write-off of inventory that no longer met Opta's quality specifications. Results for 2000 included charges totaling $650,000, or $.06 per share, for personnel costs and the consolidation of the company's starch and stabilizer blend operations.

Arthur J. McEvily, president and chief executive officer, said the company's fourth quarter revenue remained flat due to continued softness in sales to a major quick-service restaurant as well as a reduction in shipments to a few other major customers. The lower sales levels and higher than anticipated inventory levels continue to negatively impact the company's gross margins due to inefficient utilization of plant manufacturing capacity. Gross margins were 19 and 21 percent of revenue for the fourth quarter and 2001, respectively, compared with 23 and 29 percent of revenue for the respective prior-year periods. McEvily said the company is focused on reducing inventory levels by managing plant production rates during 2002. He also noted that, effective January 1, 2002, Opta implemented a 5 percent price increase on all fiber products.

"With our recent restructuring, we have significantly lowered our organizational cost levels in an effort to bring the company back to profitability," McEvily said. "Increasing sales and diversifying Opta's customer base are key priorities for 2002. We are focusing our sales resources on opportunities that leverage commercially proven applications of our products and provide improvements in product quality as well as potential cost savings to our customers."

McEvily said Opta is focusing on seven key application areas encompassing both its fiber and ingredient system product lines. These include breakage reduction for baked goods and snack foods; meat extension; total dietary fiber enhancement for cereals, breakfast bars and nutritional drinks; cheese extension; salad dressings; cultured dairy and dairy alternative products; and vegetarian burgers.

Management will discuss the company's results and business outlook in more detail during its webcast of fourth quarter and fiscal 2001 results today at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time. The webcast will be accessible through the investor relations section of the company's Web site at Replays of this webcast will also be available through the investor relations section of the company's Web site.

Opta Food Ingredients, Inc. is a leading innovator, manufacturer and marketer of proprietary food ingredients that improve the nutritional content, healthfulness, texture and taste of its customers' food products. Opta's food ingredients are used by more than 350 food companies, including 12 of the 20 largest U.S. consumer packaged food companies and three of the world's largest quick service restaurant chains.

Note: This press release contains forward-looking statements based on management's current expectations. Factors which could cause actual results to differ from such expectations are discussed in the Company's periodic reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (including Reports on Form 10-K and Form 10-Q) and include sales to a small number of food and food service companies, the size and timing of significant orders, as well as deferral of orders, over which the Company has no control; the extended product testing and launch cycles of the Company's potential customers; the variation of the Company's sales cycles from customer to customer; increased competition posed by food ingredient manufacturers; changes in pricing policies by the Company or its competitors; possible delays in securing production equipment and retrofitting production facilities and processes; the Company's success in expanding its sales and marketing programs, its ability to successfully enter new markets and its ability to gain increased market acceptance for its existing product lines; the Company's ability to timely develop and successfully introduce new products in its pipeline at acceptable costs; the potential for significant quarterly variations in the mix of sales among the Company's products; the challenges of integrating the operations of acquired businesses; and general economic conditions.

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