Tate & Lyle boss Iain Ferguson has rounded on critics of his firm's chief money-spinner, Splenda sucralose, as spreading "utter nonsense" about "one of the most exhaustively tested molecules in recent history"
Speaking at a conference hosted by Numis Securities, Ferguson said recent attacks on Splenda launched by US lobby group Citizens for Health and the prospect of a new probe from Italy's Ramazzini Foundation were "incredibly frustrating"
It had taken 12 years to get the green light for Splenda from the US Food and Drug Administration and 17 years to gain approval in the European Union, he added. "There is no health issue. I cannot think of another substance that has been tested more exhaustively than this one."
He declined to comment on a new report from Goldman Sachs, claiming Indian rival Pharmed Medicare was capable of producing industrial quantities of sucralose without infringing Tate & Lyle patents (Food Manufacture, February 2006, p4). However, he accepted that rivals would emerge eventually.
"Ultimately, there will be serious competition and we will compete through the strength of our brand franchise and superior scale," said Ferguson. "Right now, there are a number of small, 'laboratory-scale' suppliers of sucralose around, and we are in legal discussions with Wal-Mart about whether Altern [a sucralose product, which recently reappeared in some Wal-Mart stores] infringes our patents (Food Manufacture, March 2006, p6)."
He added: "Our patents are robust, but there is no point in patenting every process improvement we make because, in some countries, you might as well just publish an instruction manual if you do that."
Goldman Sachs analysts, who recently visited Pharmed Medicare's factory in Bangalore, said Tate & Lyle "could face competition sooner than the market expects"
They added: "Pharmed has indicated that it has around 80 chemistry and engineering staff and 40 manufacturing staff working on producing commercial amounts of sucralose, upscaling and process development. The process appears to have novelty of important detail in its key stages. Legal challenge cannot be ruled out, however." It added that Pharmed planned to launch a table-top version of sucralose this year and has received inquiries from a number of manufacturers. consumer goods companies with regards to supplying sucralose."