TORONTO, Mar 11, 2008 (PrimeNewswire via COMTEX) -- SunOpta Inc. (STKL) (CA:SOY) today announced that it has entered into an agreement to establish a joint venture with Colorado Mills LLC ("Colorado Mills") of Lamar Colorado, to build and operate an organic and natural vegetable oil refining facility. The venture will be operated as Colorado Sun Oil Processing LLC and will be owned 50% by SunOpta and 50% by Colorado Mills. The processing facility will be located in Lamar, Colorado, adjacent to Colorado Mills' existing crude oil processing facility, and will be capable of refining approximately 35 million pounds annually of natural and organic sunflower, soybean and canola oils. The refining facility is expected to be operational late in 2008.
SunOpta has had a business relationship with Colorado Mills for a number of years, and in 2006 financed an expansion of existing facilities to increase organic oil seed crushing capacity to meet SunOpta's growing organic oil requirements. This investment has proven successful and has led to the establishment of this venture. Once in production, the joint venture will refine existing crude oil for both Colorado Mills and SunOpta and provide cost efficiencies and increased capacity to service fast growing markets.
The venture will allow SunOpta to continue to cost effectively expand its rapidly growing healthy organic and natural vegetable oils business, and in doing so, meet growing consumer demand for these products. SunOpta began in the healthy oils business approximately seven years ago, and has built this business using a series of third party processors. As volumes have grown, it has become increasingly difficult to cost effectively manage production through third parties, thus driving the opportunity to establish internally controlled operations. As part of the joint venture agreement, SunOpta will market the majority of the refined oil from the venture and expects to generate incremental revenues of approximately $10 million.
Allan Routh, President of the SunOpta Grains and Foods Group, commented, "The benefit of consuming healthy natural and organic oils and avoiding oils containing transfats has generated tremendous demand for our vertically integrated oil products. Joining forces with Colorado Mills to operate this joint venture will position SunOpta to continue to meet increased demand and cost-effectively grow our healthy oils business."
About SunOpta Inc.
SunOpta Inc. is an operator of high-growth ethical businesses, focusing on integrated business models in natural, organic and specialty foods and related healthy living products. The Company has three business units: the SunOpta Food Group, which specializes in sourcing, processing and distribution of natural and organic food products integrated from seed through packaged products; Opta Minerals Inc. (CA:OPM: news, chart, profile) (66.3% owned by SunOpta), a producer, distributor, and recycler of environmentally friendly industrial materials; and SunOpta BioProcess Inc. which engineers and markets proprietary steam explosion technology systems for the pulp, bio-fuel and food processing industries. Each of these business units has proprietary products and services that give it a solid competitive advantage in its sector.
Forward Looking Statements
Certain statements included in this press release may constitute "forward-looking statements" within the meaning of the United States Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to references to expected financial results, business strategies, competitive strengths, goals, capital expenditure plans, business and operational growth plans and references to the future growth of the business. These forward looking statements are based on certain assumptions and analyses made by the Company in light of its experience and its interpretation of current conditions, historical trends and expected future developments as well as other factors that the Company believes are appropriate in the circumstance. However, whether actual results and developments will agree with expectations and predications of the Company is subject to many risks and uncertainties including, but not limited to final 2007 financial results, the Company's ability to address inventory issues in its berry operations, the outcome of any pending litigation; general economic, business or market risk conditions; competitive actions by other companies; changes in laws or regulations or policies of local governments, provinces and states as well as the governments of United States and Canada, many of which are beyond the control of the Company. Consequently all forward-looking statements made herein are qualified by these cautionary statements and there can be no assurance that the actual results or developments anticipated by the Company will be realized.