Stevia supplier PureCircle has seen its share price dive today (21 March) as it recorded a loss in its first half.

Shares in the manufacturer were down 10.4% at 10:53 GMT today (21 March) to 112p a share as it recorded a US$7m net loss for the six months ended 31 December, against a $1.6m profit for the same period of the previous year.

The company attributed the weaker results to “a delay in off take volumes for one of its global material contracts”.

Sales more than halved over the period, down to $13.6m against $37.5m during the first half of the previous year.

PureCircle said that the contracted volumes are planned to be delivered in the second half but is forecasting lower sales than in the previous year, now expecting between $50-60m sales against the $60.7m reported in the previous year.

PureCircle chairman Paul Selway-Swift is looking to the company’s long term for growth.

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“The first half FY 2011 has been a challenging period with sales not reflecting the underlying growth in the Stevia market. We have a highly scaled business model that leaves results sensitive to sales volumes. We remain confident of the long-term opportunity,” he said.

“The range of products already launched, the strong consumer reaction to stevia and the quality of the companies using stevia regularly all suggest that it is developing into a significant global industry. When it does, PureCircle will be well placed to capture the opportunity. We are well capitalised, the supply chain is ready and we have the strategic partnerships in place to service the global industry,” he added.