Cargill and Hayashibara Company Ltd. of Japan said today they had signed a letter of intent to evaluate the trehalose market in the Americas to determine the feasibility of Cargill establishing a manufacturing and marketing business for the multi-functional sweetener.

As part of this evaluation, Cargill has been granted an exclusive distributorship to market food grade trehalose throughout the Americas, effective immediately. Cargill will also offer a pharmaceutical grade.

Trehalose is a unique, naturally occurring sugar with many important functional characteristics. It is about 45 percent as sweet as sucrose. Trehalose has a potentially large market since it can be used as a component of sweeteners, seasonings, preserved and frozen foods and soft drinks, and as a moisture retainer in cosmetics and a preservative in pharmaceutical products.

"Numerous attempts have been made by others to produce trehalose at low cost, but none have been commercially viable," said Dr. Alan Richards, vice president of Hayashibara International. "Using Hayashibara's expertise in carbohydrate chemistry and enzyme technology, Hayashibara Biochemical Laboratories (HBL) has developed a unique process for high-yield, large-scale production of trehalose directly from starch at a fraction of the cost of existing methods."

"Cargill has studied the uses of trehalose in food for several years," said Bruce Leslie, leader of Cargill's specialty food business development group. "We are excited about developing the potential business opportunities associated with trehalose and growing our relationship with Hayashibara."

"Hayashibara selected Cargill because of its reputation for excellence, broad food ingredient market presence, and world class manufacturing skills," said Katsuaki Hayashibara, director of Overseas Business Development.

Both companies have performed extensive applications testing and are engaged in an ongoing joint research program for trehalose.

"If the two companies determine that the trehalose market and business conditions are suitable, Cargill will be granted exclusive rights to the Hayashibara technology in the Americas," Leslie said. "Cargill will then design and construct a large-scale trehalose production facility that will revolutionize the cost of the product."

Trehalose produced by the Hayashibara technology has been self-affirmed as generally recognized as safe (GRAS) as a multiple-use direct additive for general use in foods. A GRAS Notification submission has been filed with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and is currently under review by the agency.

"Until recently, trehalose has been cost prohibitive to the food industry, and its uses have been limited to the stabilization of proteins and biological systems in pharmaceutical applications and in cosmetics," Leslie said. "With the new production technology and affirmation that it is GRAS, trehalose is now available at reasonable pricing to create new opportunities in the food industry."

HBL was founded in 1970 as a research division of Hayashibara Company Ltd. in Okayama, Japan. The parent company has more than a century-long history of innovations in the field of carbohydrate science. Hayashibara Company Ltd. was the first company in the world to commercialize the manufacture of glucose from starch using enzymatic hydrolysis.

Since that time, Hayashibara has continued to commercialize various starch-based saccharides that have applications in the food, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. The Hayashibara trehalose production technology was developed in 1994 by HBL and the Company has filed patents in numerous countries.

Cargill is an international marketer, processor and distributor of agricultural, food, financial and industrial products and services with 82,000 employees in 59 countries. Trehalose demonstrates Cargill's commitment to specialty food ingredients as part of its ongoing dedication to deliver innovative customer solutions.