into everything she says to a man, and
takes a grain of salt with everything he says to her.
Part I: Agri-giants Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and Cargill take competition in sweetener market insider to the courtroom.
Sugar is more than a simple staple in our daily diet. It is deeply entrenched in our lives. References to the crystallized sweetness are even sprinkled throughout our doggerel, such as the perspective of American humorist Helen Rowland on gender politics.
Besides iconic significance in our culture, sugar is big business. Industry analysts suggest the broader sweetener market is valued near $58 billion per year. It is no surprise then that the producers of sugar and sweetening alternatives are in a pitch battle for market share. It has several of the largest sweetener producers squared off in a Los Angeles court room, arguing over claims to nature and nutrition. Grower-owned Western Sugar Cooperative is leading a group of sugar refiners in a law suit against Archer Daniels Midland (ADM: NYSE) and other corn syrup producers. The corn gang has cried foul and filed a counter suit.
A look at ADM’s last financial report helps put the sweetener market and the law suit into perspective. ADM reported $4.8 billion in sales from sweeteners in the fiscal year ending June 2012, on which it earned 7.0% in operating profit. This was a far better margin than the 3.7% operating profit ADM earned on oil seeds processing and 2.1% on agriculture services, both of which are significantly larger contributors to ADM sales. ADM cannot afford to let such a lucrative market opportunity slip through its collective fingers.
All sweeteners are facing a new threat from stevia. Extracted from the leaves of a subtropical shrub, stevia products can claim to be “natural” and that has excited consumers. Besides a purity pedigree, stevia has a glycaemic index of zero and does not affect blood-sugar levels. Stevia was designated GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) by the U.S. FDA in 2008 and approved for sale in the European Union in 2011.