The product is designed to provide cost and nutritional benefits to pulverized meat products, such as nugget-shaped patties, meatballs, meatloaf and meat and poultry patties. The product launch comes just two weeks after the SRB was approved for use by the US Department of Agriculture. Pheonix-based NutraCea has signed a deal with Turris Phil, a division of the Philippines-based manufacturer and distributor Leysam. It also said it has established relationships with a number of food ingredient distributors in the Europe, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand. "We have proactively sought to establish new business relationships in a number of international markets, and we expect to begin shipping to these markets in 2008," said Kody Newland, NutraCea's senior vice president of sales. The company also produces rice bran oil as an alternative to other edible oils and has recently announced an investment in a wheat bran plant. Cost and nutritional benefits Rice bran is a by-product of rice processing that is usually discarded or used as animal feed. While it is rich in fiber and a host of other beneficial nutrients, one of the main attractions for manufacturers is the cost savings it can confer. Newland previously told FoodNavigator-USA.com that soy protein isolates are often used in meat products as extenders, but rice bran can be used instead or in combination with these. While he said soy protein isolates can carry a price tag of $1.25 per lb or higher, NutraCea's list price for rice bran is just $0.45 per lb for the granular version and $0.55 per lb for the fine version, translating into significant cost savings. Manufacturers are keener than ever to reformulate to save costs as global food prices have recently soared as a result of competition from emerging markets, competition for grains for use in biofuels, growing populations and emerging markets placing pressure on demand, and poor harvests. The use of rice bran can also result in a non-allergenic product without soy. Additionally, meat extenders are typically used in place of meat fat, which is extracted. Newland said this makes for a more nutritious product, as rice bran has been found to be very rich in nutrients. NutraCea has filed a provisional patent for the rice bran, both in the US and internationally. Distribution agreements Turris Phil is a privately-owned distribution and blending company of functional ingredients marketed to the food, dairy and meat industry throughout Southeast Asia. "We have received our initial order of multiple container-loads of RiBran Isolate and anticipate increased orders to supply our customers as they realize the wide range of benefits RiBran Isolate provides in place of traditional meat enhancers," said Bernard Chu, president of Leysam. Rick Crowder, vice president of Industrial Commodities, a direct, contracted, large food-ingredient distributor based in Virginia, said: "We believe that partial or total substitution of a cost-effective, healthful ingredient like RiBran Isolate in place of soy protein isolate, mustard flour, modified food starch, maltodextrin and other fibers will be very appealing to our broad base of customers. "We project that by this time next year, we will be moving approximately 40m pounds annually of RiBran Isolate to the meat industry in the U.S."