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Made in the Northland: Tate & Lyle puts the tart in SweetTarts

The Tate & Lyle plant in Duluth's Riverside neighborhood makes tart food additives for numerous food products. (Clint Austin /

What: Malic acid and fumaric acid, food additives that add tartness to foods

Company: Tate & Lyle

Location: 110 Spring St. in Duluth's Riverside neighborhood

Where it comes from: The manufactured additives are identical to substances that are naturally occurring in fruits, especially apples.

How it's used: Food manufacturers use the flavoring agent in fruit-flavored candy, gelatins, beverages and other foods that have a tart flavor. Among the most notable: Nestle SweetTarts, a sweet and sour candy.

"These two ingredients are in hundreds of different foods and beverages and are quite common in confection products," said Chris Olsen, Tate & Lyle corporate vice president of community and government relations.

Customers: "The majority of major food companies around the globe use our product," Olsen said. "We ship the product from Duluth literally all over the world. Thirty percent is exported and 70 percent is used for domestic uses."

Did you know: Probably everybody in the Northland has consumed food or beverages with these flavoring agents in them.

Who else makes it? Nine other producers around the world

Company history: The Duluth plant had a foiled beginning in 1973 when International Organics broke ground on the plant that would use a new process to make malic and fumaric acids. But the company went bankrupt before the plant was finished. Two years later, Albert Gas Chemicals Inc. of Canada took over and operated the plant for a time. It had a series of owners before Tate & Lyle purchased it from Haarmann & Reimer in 1998. Tate & Lyle has about 30 plants around the world, including the plant in Duluth.

Number of employees: The Duluth plant has about 40 full-time workers, from manufacturing jobs to technicians.

"We have an excellent group of employees that work on safety, produce quality ingredients and do it at a competitive cost," Olsen said.

Plant manager: Mike Ausmus

Why Duluth? The Duluth plant was part of a Tate & Lyle acquisition of two plants 13 years ago. It has been said Duluth's supply of cold water for cooling and its low humidity for drying and storing the product is an advantage.