Canadian food group SunOpta has expanded capacity at its value-added organic and speciality cocoa processing facility in The Netherlands.

The facility, located in Middenmeer, north of Amsterdam, processes internationally sourced cocoa beans into cocoa liquor, butter and powder. Expansion, however, was needed to accommodate the company's growing organic and speciality cocoa business that has historically been processed by third parties, SunOpta said.

The operation will ramp up production and volume over the balance of 2013, it said, without revealing to what level.

"This expansion is consistent with our strategy of becoming a pure play natural and organic foods company, aggressively growing our value-added ingredients and consumer packaged foods portfolio, and leveraging our integrated platform," said CEO Steve Bromley. "This dedicated organic and speciality cocoa facility adds to our value-added processing capabilities in our international foods group and increases our capacity to service this fast growing market segment."

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SunOpta Increases Processing Capabilities for Value-Added Organic and Specialty Cocoa Products With Commissioning of New Facility

TORONTO, Oct. 2, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- SunOpta Inc. ("SunOpta" or the "Company") (Nasdaq:STKL) (TSX:SOY) today announced that it has completed the construction and commissioning of a new value-added organic and specialty cocoa processing facility located in Middenmeer, The Netherlands, approximately one hour north of Amsterdam. Operated as 'Crown of Holland', the facility processes internationally sourced cocoa beans into cocoa liquor, butter and powder, and provides needed capacity to accommodate the Company's growing organic and specialty cocoa business that has historically been processed by third parties. The operation will ramp-up production capabilities and volume over the balance of 2013.

Gerard Versteegh, President of the International Foods Group, commented, "Vertically integrating into our own dedicated cocoa facility allows us to have increased control over our business and expand our margins, especially as we increase throughput. Organic and specialty cocoa products remain a key category for the International Foods Group, and we anticipate above average growth prospects in this segment of the market."

Steve Bromley, Chief Executive Officer of SunOpta Inc., commented, "This expansion is consistent with our strategy of becoming a pure play natural and organic foods company, aggressively growing our value-added ingredients and consumer packaged foods portfolio, and leveraging our integrated platform. This dedicated organic and specialty cocoa facility adds to our value-added processing capabilities in our International Foods Group and increases our capacity to service this fast growing market segment."

The facility was built using the latest in environmentally friendly building materials and technologies. The operation has annual processing capacity of approximately 9,000 MT of raw cocoa and is one of the only operations in the world focused 100% on organic and specialty fair trade cocoa products. The facility utilizes a unique whole-bean roasting technology, which when combined with globally sourced cocoa bean varieties, provides customers with a range of unique flavor profiles. With its own processing capabilities now in place, the Company intends to expand its organic and specialty cocoa business and better serve the specialty chocolate industry with certified and specialty cocoa products.

About SunOpta Inc.

SunOpta Inc. is a leading global company focused on natural, organic and specialty foods products. The Company specializes in sourcing, processing and packaging of natural and organic food products, integrated from seed through packaged products; with a focus on strategically vertically integrated business models. The Company's core natural and organic food operations focus on value-added grains, fiber and fruit based product offerings, supported by a global infrastructure. The Company has two non-core holdings, a 66.1% ownership position in Opta Minerals Inc., listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, a producer, distributor, and recycler of environmentally friendly industrial materials; and a minority ownership position in Mascoma Corporation, an innovative biofuels company.

Original source: SunOpta