SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Adine Deford, Cynthia Dunlop, Harry Trott, Xenia von Wedel, Peter Silva

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Universal Leaf North America U.S., Inc. Announces a New Business to Produce Innovative Food Ingredients

NASHVILLE, N.C., April 16, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Universal Leaf North America U.S., Inc. ("ULNA") today announced the launch of Carolina Innovative Food Ingredients, Inc. ("CIFI"), a new venture of ULNA's parent, Universal Corporation (NYSE: UVV). CIFI will utilize advanced technology to produce high quality food grade dehydrated and juiced fruit and vegetable products. Initially the business will focus upon value added ingredients derived from sweet potatoes.  CIFI expects to invest approximately $20 million over two years in a new juice and dehydration facility that will be located near ULNA's manufacturing facility in Nash County, North Carolina, and will employ approximately 64 people.  Production is expected to begin during the first quarter of calendar year 2015.

Clay Frazier, President of ULNA, stated, "This investment is a growth opportunity for Universal Corporation and is beneficial to North Carolina and its tobacco farmers.  It creates jobs and strengthens our farm community.  Sweet potatoes are an important rotational crop and an alternative source of income for tobacco farmers.  Nearly half of U.S. sweet potatoes are grown in North Carolina.  We would like to thank Nash County, the North Carolina Governor's office, the staff of the North Carolina Department of Commerce, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Carolinas Gateway Partnership, and the North Carolina Community College System for their support of this endeavor."

North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler commented, "During the past decade, the sweet potato industry in North Carolina has been a bright spot for agriculture and our state's economy. With nearly a billion pounds of sweet potatoes raised by over 300 growers, North Carolina welcomes new ways of adding value to this important crop through new products and new business. In addition to the added jobs directly created by Carolina Innovative Food Ingredients, their sourcing of North Carolina sweet potatoes could increase farm revenue and potentially add new agricultural jobs. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is especially pleased to be a part of an initiative that provides our state's tobacco growers opportunities to produce additional sustainable rotation crops."

John W. Kimber, Chief Operating Officer of CIFI, stated, "Sweet potatoes are an increasingly popular ingredient in food and pet food products.  They are gluten free, non-GMO, and are a source of resistant starch and fiber, resulting in a low glycemic food index.  Sweet potatoes also have high beta-carotene and vitamin C levels.  In our innovative process, we intend to use sweet potatoes that currently go unused because of surface defects and less desirable shapes and sizes.  These potatoes are a sound and wholesome under-utilized food product that we will market to the growing healthy foods and global pet food industries."  

Headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, Universal Corporation is the leading global leaf tobacco supplier and conducts business in more than 30 countries. Its revenues for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2013, were $2.5 billion. For more information on Universal Corporation, visit its website at www.universalcorp.com. For additional information on Carolina Innovative Food Ingredients, Inc., visit its website at www.innovativefoodingredients.com.

SOURCE Universal Leaf North America U.S., Inc.

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