Half of Solbar's prospective market is in the US, according to Gary Brenner, sales and marketing director for the firm, and the company is now considered among the top three providers of specialised soy proteins, after US firms DuPont Protein Technologies (which recently formed the Solae joint venture to market its soy ingredients) and Archer Daniels Midland (ADM).
While the company is still a long way from catching up on Du Pont, it is aiming to consolidate its number three position by gaining a significant share of the growing number of new US customers in the months ahead.
"We are looking at different alternatives but have made no decisions yet on going into the US. Local production is definitely an advantage though," Brenner told NutraIngredients.com.
Solbar, which saw revenues climb 24 per cent to NIS 459.7 million (E83.3m) in 2003 and profits increase 29 per cent to NIS 31 million. (5.62), will fund its expansion with an IPO issued in March, which raised NIS 112 million (20.3m).
The IPO, oversubscribed by 5000 per cent, was said to be the most oversubscribed in Tel Aviv Stock Exchange history, according to national press reports. It is one of a growing number of kibbutz-owned companies being listed on the stock exchange.
The company's first plant outside Israel will be in China however, with construction scheduled for completion at the end of 2004. China offers strong potential for soy proteins, due to soy's established place in the traditional diet. The market is growing by more than 10 per cent each year, compared to global growth of around 6-7 per cent, Rani ben Melech, Solbar finance director, said.
Other emerging markets will be important to the soy industry too. Solae's president Tony Arnold told the Indian press this week that the company plans to set up a manufacturing base for soy proteins in India to meet expected demand for the ingredient as the country goes through major growth in coming years.
It already has a product development centre in India to focus on designing soy-based foods to suit the taste preferences of Indian customers.
Solbar, currently with two manufacturing plants in Israel employing 190 workers, says its smaller size allows it to better target applications to customers' needs and provide good service. It is not competing with the US giants on price, or stealing share, but its annual growth of up to 30 per cent each year suggests it is attracting new customers.