Fruit, starch and sugar producer Agrana, under a joint venture with Amalgamated Sugar, has begun construction of a €40m ($45m) betaine crystallisation plant at its sugar refinery in Tulln, Austria.

Betaine is a natural substance found in sugar beet molasses. It is used in a wide range of applications, including food supplements and sports drinks to promote muscle development.

Since 2015, Agrana has been processing sugar beet molasses, which is obtained during the production of sugar at its Tulln site for producing liquid betaine.

With an annual production capacity of nearly 8,500t, the plant will become the third manufacturing site in the world to be engaged in the production of natural crystalline betaine.

“This investment in a greater depth of sugar refining is a top priority in the interests of safeguarding competitiveness.”

In a joint statement, Agrana CEO Johann Marihart and Amalgamated CEO John McCreedy said: “We are looking forward to a successful partnership to produce premium-quality crystalline betaine.

“Diversification by means of betaine in our sugar segment is essential to ideally exploit the full potential of sugar beets. This investment in a greater depth of sugar refining is, therefore, a top priority in the interests of safeguarding competitiveness.”

The sugar mill in Tulln is the headquarters of Agrana’s subsidiary AgranaZucker, which produced nearly 700,000mt of sugar from approximately five million metric tonnes of sugar beets at its nine sugar mills in Central and Eastern Europe during the last campaign.

Last month, Agrana opened its second manufacturing facility for fruit preparations in Changzhou, China.

Built with an investment of nearly €22m ($24m), the facility is designed to produce nearly 30,000t of fruit preparations such as strawberries, blueberries and peaches to be supplied to yoghurt, bakery, ice cream and food service segments.