SunOpta has responded to increased demand for natural and organic foods in North America by increasing the production capacity at five of its manufacturing facilities and extending the lease on another.

It has completed an expansion of its Dakota Gourmet roasting and packaging facility, located in Wahpeton, North Dakota.

The organic food company operator said that Dakota Gourmet had reached full capacity at the end of 2005 at the roasts and packages organic and natural food snacks processing facility. The expanded facility will add approximately 50% further capacity and allow for continued growth in a market accelerating 30% per year.

The company has also commenced expansion of capacity by an average of 20% at its fibre plants located in Louisville, Kentucky, Cedar Rapids, Iowa and Cambridge, Minnesota, which will continue over the next six months.

In addition, SunOpta announced that it has signed a lease for a new 95,000 square foot organic grocery distribution centre in Richmond, British Columbia, required to accommodate strong growth in the Western Canadian organic and natural food market.

Finally, an expansion of drying and processing capabilities at the Fruit Group’s facility located in Omak, Washington, has commenced, to increase throughput by 70% and be completed by December 2006.

SunOpta president and COO Steve Bromley said: “We continue to strategically expand our operating capabilities in response to demand for our healthy product offerings. This is a most exciting time for SunOpta as healthy eating trends converge to create significant opportunities for the company.”