NutraSweet to boost capacity

NEW YORK - With more consumers switching to diet soft drinks, NutraSweet Co., a leading producer of aspartame, plans to restart a mothballed production line at a Georgia plant this year to satisfy increased demand for the sugar substitute.

The plans will result in a 30 percent increase in aspartame production, NutraSweet Chief Executive Craig Petray said.

According to Petray, aspartame demand is rising 4 percent to 5 percent, largely due to its use in U.S. soft drinks.

''Despite sucralose getting most of the headlines in recent months, the resurgence in demand for aspartame is a key development in 2004,'' said Nick Fereday, a senior economist at LMC International Ltd., a New York consulting firm that tracks developments in the sugar and sweetener industries.

In recent years, use of low-calorie sweeteners has grown faster than sugar use, Fereday said.

The demand for low-calorie sugar substitutes has been so strong that right now there is room in the market for all of these sweeteners to grow, Fereday said.

Chicago-based NutraSweet will reopen part of its aspartame facility in Augusta that has been shuttered since 2003.

- From wire reports