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Tobacco supplier Universal to enter food business

Thursday - 4/17/2014, 11:56pm  ET

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- The world's leading supplier and processor of leaf tobacco is venturing beyond the cash crop into the food business.

Richmond, Va.-based Universal Corp. is opening a new juice and dehydration facility in North Carolina that will initially focus on sweet potatoes.

The new subsidiary, Carolina Innovative Food Ingredients Inc., expects to invest about $20 million over two years into the facility. Production is expected to begin during the first quarter of 2015.

Officials say the new business will be able to offer ingredients to the food and pet food manufacturing industries while providing tobacco growers with a new market for sweet potatoes.

The company says nearly half of U.S. sweet potato production comes from North Carolina and they are often grown in rotation with tobacco.

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