AUGUSTA, GA. — The NutraSweet Co. will exit the aspartame segment of its business and concentrate on sales of other more profitable sweetener lines, the Augusta-based company said Sept. 24. NutraSweet plans to shut down its aspartame and L-phenyalanine production plant in Augusta by the end of the year. The plant employs about 210 people, including contractors.
Foreign competition was the primary reason for the decision to shift focus to other sweeteners, said William DeFer, chief executive officer of NutraSweet.
“Low cost imports now dominate the aspartame market, making it impossible for us to sustain a profitable business while maintaining our unmatched standard of quality,” Mr. DeFer said. “By contrast, neotame and Twinsweet, our other sweeteners, occupy unique, high value positions in a market where food and beverage makers need low-calorie alternatives to satisfy changing consumer tastes.”
NutraSweet said it intends to fulfill its existing customer contracts and will assist customers with supply allocations until the shutdown. NutraSweet will maintain production, sales and distribution capabilities for neotame and Twinsweet in Augusta.
Several food companies have moved away from using aspartame in formulations recently. For example, Minneapolis-based General Mills, Inc. removed aspartame from Yoplait Light yogurts after receiving comments and calls from consumers.The U.S. Food and Drug Administration first approved the safety of aspartame in 1981. In 2007 the F.D.A. concluded its review of a carcinogenicity study conducted by the European Ramazzini Foundation in Bologna, Italy. The F.D.A. said it did not support the foundation’s conclusion that aspartame is a carcinogen.