TWIN FALLS — Amalgamated Sugar has a new $43 million processing facility — in Austria.
The plant — which is already running — is a joint venture with Agrana, an Austrian company that specializes in sugars, starches and fruit processing. The facility produces crystalline betaine.
Betaine has a lot of diverse uses. It’s used in livestock feed, cosmetic products and shampoos. Betaine can also increase muscle growth, which is why weightlifters and bodybuilders often take it as part of their pre or post-workout supplements.
Betaine got its name because it was first discovered in sugar beets, but many healthy foods have betaine, including wheat germ, beets, spinach and quinoa. The Austrian plant is processing European sugar beets, using technology developed by the Amalgamated Sugar research team in Twin Falls, but betaine can also be chemically synthesized.
“We’re able to take this naturally occurring substance and extract it from sugar beets in a way that’s very efficient and effective,” Amalgamated Sugar Communications Specialist Jessica Anderson said.
Anderson said the sugar co-op is always looking for ways to add value to sugar beets beyond just sugar.
“(Our) main objective is to provide more return to our grower-owners and this is just another avenue to enable us to do that,” Anderson said.
The new facility will process about 8,400 metric tons of crystalline betaine annually. It’s just the third natural crystalline betaine processor in the world, Anderson said.
“We’re hoping to continue to bolster our sugar beet payments to our growers through finding these different avenues of business development,” she said.