Sweet Deal

By Aaron Small 11/11/2009

BioVittoria is a NZ product development and marketing company founded by former HortResearch scientist Dr Garth Smith, American nutraceuticals marketer Stephen LeFebvre and Chinese Luo Han expert, Lan Fusheng. Their product is PureLo, a zero-calorie natural sweetner extracted from the Luo Han fruit, which is 200 times sweeter than sugar.

The Luo Han fruit is native to China, grows only in Southern China, and the Chinese Government has banned it from being grown outside of China where it is protected by World Trade Organisation Rules. Bio-GFS, the Joint Venture through which BioVittoria has recently set up a factory in Guanxi Province, owns the sole plant variety rights to the only commercially available Luo Han plants, and has a network of over 5000 growers in the Province, for which they help manage the fruit growing and processing aspects of the business.

They have recently announced an Initial Public Offering (IPO) on the New Zealand Stock Exchange (NZX) in order to raise $20 Million in capital (at $1 per share) to buy more fruit, pay off debt and to expand into the USA where some of the worlds biggest foodstuffs and nutraceuticals companies are located. They expect US FDA approval in February, which would open significant doors.

As pointed out by Andrew McDouall of McDouall Stuart, that although risky, this represents a great opportunity to get involved early with a NZ company that is making big strides. “If we waited six months they could have all the regulatory approvals but would pay more. It’s a risk return trade-off. There are many investors that want to get in at the ground floor of great opportunities rather than paying top dollar from a private equity firm.”

Considering diseases associated with high sugar intake (such as diabetes) are becoming more and more prevalent in developed and developing countries, this could be a very sweet deal indeed.