Roche Vitamins, a unit of the Swiss pharmaceutical group, has opened a new production facility in South Africa which will manufacture vitamin premixes for the food industry. At the same time, the company has suspended production of vitamin C at a plant in the US in order to run down inventories before the eventual sale of the business.
The South African plant is based in Isando and Roche claims it will allow it to make significant advances in terms of productivity and quality. It will also help Roche improve the delivery of its products to clients, the company said.
The plant is the first part of a larger project undertaken by Roche's vitamins division in South Africa. Phase two will involve the construction of a new facility to manufacture vitamin premixes for use in animal nutrition.
Roche said that the investments in South Africa reinforced its commitment to improving the vitamin intake of consumers in the country. It cited independent studies which showed that one in three children in South Africa has symptoms of vitamin A deficiency, adding that the fortification of food with vitamins produced at the Isando plant could help reduce this figure.
The premixes will not only be used in South Africa, however. Countries such as Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya, where poor nutrition is also prevalent, should benefit from foods fortified with the vitamins produced at the South African plant.
The investment in South Africa comes as Roche continues to look for a potential buyer for its vitamins operations. This imminent sale has prompted the group to halt production of bulk vitamin C at its plant in New Jersey in order to sell off inventories over the next few months.
Roche remains confident that it will find a buyer for the vitamins business, despite the relatively poor performance which has prompted the sale in the first place. The operations in Africa, for example, have an excellent future, Roche said, and the fortification of food and consumption of supplements is also likely to grow, despite the recent depression in the US market.