ATCHISON, Kan., Aug. 10, 2010 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- MGP Ingredients, Inc. (Nasdaq:MGPI) is teaming up with key academic institutions in Kansas to stay on the cutting edge of developing new products that can increase U.S. energy independence, provide environmental benefits and offer exciting commercialization opportunities.

MGPI will serve as the lead industrial partner in the Kansas Bio-Plastics Commercialization Collaborative, which is supported by nearly $1.3 million in federal funding and coordinated by the Kansas Bioscience Authority (KBA). Research expertise is being provided by Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan., Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., and Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kan.

New products emanating from the research will be developed from bio-based plastics that use agricultural ingredients grown domestically instead of imported petroleum. MGPI will contribute its expertise and facilities to test new polymers and develop new products, with the dual goal of making bio-based plastics and end-use products fully biodegradable and cost competitive with plastics made from petroleum.

"This collaborative project represents a very exciting step toward increased development of innovative, functional polymers derived principally from renewable plant-based resources," said Tim Newkirk, MGPI president and chief executive officer. "We are both elated and fortunate to have a key role in this partnership effort to help bring new, eco-friendly products to the marketplace. Furthermore, we applaud the foresight and involvement of Senator Sam Brownback, the KBA and USDA, along with the tireless efforts of Dr. Sukh Bassi, MGPI's vice president of scientific affairs, in making this initiative a reality."

Kansas Bioscience Authority president Tom Thornton said, "This is another great example of bringing the right partners together to address national challenges with cutting-edge bioscience. The opportunity here is tremendous."

The collaboration is made possible by U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and other members of the Kansas congressional delegation who supported funding from both the Small Business Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

In recent years, MGPI has conducted considerable research and development in the area of plant-based polymers and resins for use in the manufacture of a variety of plastic-like consumer products. MGPI produces and markets the MGPI Terratek® SC line of wheat starch-based biopolymers and the MGPI Terratek® WC line of wood-based composite resins. Both lines are produced at the company's facility in Onaga, Kan., and supported by product innovation activities at a pilot plant located in MGPI's Technical Innovation Center in Atchison.

Because the Terratek® SC biopolymers can be formed into a variety of shapes and sizes, they have virtually unlimited applications in the production of both pliable and hard plastic products, including tableware, golf tees, key cards, etc. Along with environmental concerns, increased costs of petroleum-based plastics have generated increased excitement about the potential for renewable resources to replace synthetic materials in such applications. The development and commercialization of MGPI's Terratek® SC addresses this topic by providing viable, renewable alternatives to petroleum-based polymers.

The Terratek® WC resins combine the pleasing look of wood with the functionality and ease of manufacturing plastics. These resins blend fine wood particles with recycled plastic materials to create firm, smooth pellets. The wood particles are obtained from waste materials generated by lumber manufacturers, which are then processed to create a consistent filler/reinforcing material. The use of these particles promotes the reclamation of wood waste that would otherwise be sent to landfills and ensures that no new trees are cut down to make the product. Terratek® WC can be used in such applications as decking, furniture, structural components, and indoor and outdoor decorative items.

"MGPI is proud of its role as a leader in the early development of bio-based plastics and products, and greatly looks forward to participating in this important new initiative," Dr. Bassi said. "The successful development of the next generation of these products will help attract further private investment, create jobs, and provide tremendous economic benefit to Kansas. At our end, to help boost this process, we intend to strengthen our commercialization, as well as product development activities by building our sales and applications technology capabilities."

"One of the most compelling advantages of this initiative is its solidification of a true partnership between industry, the field of academia and governmental agencies that will create new opportunities for the agricultural community and deliver benefits to the general consumer public," Dr. Bassi, who will coordinate the research program, said. "We are genuinely grateful to have a part in such a wonderfully rewarding initiative that will utilize a combination of nature, science and innovation to help create a better environment for all of us."

About MGP Ingredients

In business since 1941, MGP Ingredients, Inc. is a recognized pioneer in the development and production of value–added, grain-based starches, proteins and food grade alcohol products for the branded packaged goods industry. The company has facilities in Atchison, Kan., and Onaga, Kan. that are equipped with the latest technologies to assure high quality products and to maintain efficient production and service capabilities.
CONTACT:  MGP Ingredients, Inc.            Steve Pickman          913-367-1480