TORONTO, Apr 19, 2004 -- SunOpta Inc. (STKL) (CA:SOY) today announced that its wholly owned subsidiary, SunOpta Ingredients, Inc., (the Company) has completed the previously announced purchase of the General Mills Bakeries & Foodservice oat fiber processing facility located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and commenced operating the facility earlier today. As part of this purchase, the Company has entered into an agreement to supply oat fiber to General Mills, Inc.
With the addition of this facility and the previously announced expansions at existing operations, the Company has essentially doubled its total annual oat fiber processing capacity since August, 2003. The Company's growth in oat fiber has been driven by the significant increase in consumer demand for healthier food offerings, resulting from the popularity of low-carb diets such as Atkins and South Beach, and the general trend to improve the nutritional content of foods.
The Cedar Rapids facility is expected to operate at near capacity levels shortly following the close. The Company plans to upgrade the facility's operating structure and further increase operating capacity.
The purchase of this 31,000 square foot facility is also expected to generate significant efficiencies in the Company's oat fiber processing operations and will enable the Company to streamline oat fiber production across the three facilities, lengthening run times and improving operating efficiencies.
SunOpta Ingredients, Inc. will retain the fiber facility staff previously employed by General Mills, Inc.
Jeremy N. Kendall, Chairman and CEO of SunOpta Inc., commented "We are very pleased to have completed the purchase of this facility and further strengthen our supply relationship with General Mills. We continue to develop our healthy ingredients capabilities and continue to work with food manufacturers as they bring healthier foods to the marketplace."
SunOpta Inc. is an owner/operator of high-growth ethical businesses, focusing on integrated business models in the natural and organic food markets. For the last five consecutive years, SunOpta was included in Profit magazine's 'Profit 100' list of the 100 fastest growing companies in Canada. 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; the Opta Minerals Group, a producer, distributor, and recycler of environmentally friendly industrial materials; and the StakeTech Steam Explosion Group that engineers and markets clean pulping systems using patented steam explosion technology. Each of these business units has proprietary products and services that give it a solid competitive advantage in its sector.
Note: This news release may contain forward-looking information. Actual future results may differ materially. The risks, uncertainties, and other factors that could influence actual results are described in the Company's annual report to shareholders and in SEC filings. The attached consolidated balance sheet and consolidated statement of earnings has been summarized from the 2003 audited financial statements and includes unaudited information. The information provided here should be considered in conjunction with the other information included within the audited financial statements.