Universal Leaf North America U.S., Inc. (“ULNA”) today announced the launch of Carolina Innovative Food Ingredients, Inc. (“CIFI” www.innovativefoodingredients.com ), a new venture of ULNA’s parent, Universal Corporation (NYSE:UVV). CIFI will utilize advanced technology to produce high quality food grade dehydrated and juiced fruit and vegetable products. Initially the business will focus upon value added ingredients derived from sweet potatoes. CIFI expects to invest approximately $20 million over two years in a new juice and dehydration facility that will be located near ULNA’s manufacturing facility in Nash County, North Carolina, and will employ approximately 64 people. Production is expected to begin during the first quarter of calendar year 2015.

Clay Frazier, President of ULNA, stated, “This investment is a growth opportunity for Universal Corporation and is beneficial to North Carolina and its tobacco farmers. It creates jobs and strengthens our farm community. Sweet potatoes are an important rotational crop and an alternative source of income for tobacco farmers. Nearly half of U.S. sweet potatoes are grown in North Carolina. We would like to thank Nash County, the North Carolina Governor’s office, Carolinas Gateway Partnership, the staff of the North Carolina Department of Commerce, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the North Carolina Community College System for their support of this endeavor.”
John W. Kimber, Chief Operating Officer of CIFI stated, “Sweet potatoes are an increasingly popular ingredient in food and pet food products. They are gluten free, non-GMO, and are a source of resistant starch and fiber, resulting in a low glycemic food index. Sweet potatoes also have high beta-carotene and vitamin C levels. In our innovative process, we intend to use sweet potatoes that currently go unused because of surface defects and less desirable shapes and sizes. These potatoes are a sound and wholesome under-utilized food product that we will market to the growing healthy foods and global pet food industries.”
Bill Daughtridge, North Carolina Secretary of Administration and long-time Nash County businessman, said the plant will help increase North Carolina’s exports. “The demand for North Carolina goods, particularly agriculture products, is increasing in the international market,” Daughtridge, said. “Universal Leaf’s investment in Nash County will expand export opportunities for North Carolina’s farmers and bolster our state’s economy.”
“This is simply a win win for everyone. We know how important agriculture and particularly sweet potato and tobacco farming is to our local economy and this project strengthens that economic sector. This project benefits growers as well as the Nash County citizens that will fill those 64 jobs at the processing facility. We are very excited that CIFI and ULNA chose Nash County and are proud this will be home of such an innovative industry” stated Fred Belfield, Chairman of the Nash County Board of Commissioners.
“This confirms the wise investment of our partners in the Carolinas Gateway Partnership. We continue to recruit and expand innovative industries. This project benefits the Twin Counties in more than just job creation, with the impact on the agricultural economy included, this will have long term benefits. “ said Carolinas Gateway Partnership Chairman, Frank Harrison.