TORONTO — SunOpta Inc. announced that its SunOpta International Foods Group is expanding its integrated processing capabilities with a new value-added organic and specialty cocoa facility located in Middenmeer, The Netherlands. The facility will process internationally sourced cocoa beans into cocoa liquor, butter and powder, and it will provide needed capacity to accommodate the company’s growing organic and specialty cocoa business that currently is processed by third parties.

SunOpta said the facility is being built using the latest in environmentally friendly building materials and technologies and will process organic and specialty cocoa products. When commissioned, it is expected the plant will have an annual processing capacity of approximately 9,000 tonnes of raw cocoa.

Testing and commissioning of the new facility is expected to begin in the second half of 2013, with the planned transfer of the company’s existing cocoa volume by July 2013.

With its own processing capabilities in place, SunOpta said it plans on expanding its organic and specialty cocoa business and serving the specialty chocolate industry with certified and specialty cocoa products.

“Vertically integrating into our own dedicated cocoa facility will allow us to have increased control over our business and expand our margins, especially as we increase throughput,” said Gerard Versteegh, president of the International Foods Group. “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., added, “This expansion along with the previously announced acquisition of OLC is consistent with our strategy of becoming a pure play natural and organic foods company, aggressively growing our value-added ingredients and 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.”