TORONTO, March 18, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- SunOpta Inc. ("SunOpta" or the "Company") (Nasdaq:STKL) (TSX:SOY), a leading global company focused on natural and organic foods, today provided an update on the the expansion of processing and packaging capabilities at the Grains and Foods Group's aseptic processing and packaging operations in Modesto, California and Alexandria, Minnesota. Recently the Company completed an expansion at the Modesto, CA operation with the installation and commissioning of a second processor, increasing processing capacity at the facility by approximately 50% in order to meet increased customer demand, while also improving operating flexibility and efficiencies. The Company will also be adding further aseptic packaging capacities at both the Modesto and Alexandria, MN aseptic processing and packaging operations with the installation of an additional multi-serve filler (liter/quart) at each operation, as well as a single serve (200/250ml) filler at the Modesto operation. Each of the new fillers are expected to be in production during the third quarter of 2013. Steve Bromley, Chief Executive Officer, SunOpta Inc. commented, "Continued expansion of our value-added aseptic processing and packaging capabilities remains a key strategic objective designed to further leverage our integrated field to table capabilities. This is consistent with our strategy to aggressively grow our value-added ingredients and packaged foods portfolio, and leveraging our integrated platform to become a pure play natural and organic foods company." The addition of further processing and packaging capabilities is in response to continued growth in the non-dairy and alternative beverage categories that the Company currently serves. The new fillers will provide unique capabilities and are expected to provide opportunities to bring new and innovative products in a new aseptic package format to the market, further enhancing the profitability of these operations. SunOpta's vertically integrated non-dairy beverage capabilities are unique and utilize operations incorporating raw material sourcing through ingredient production and finished packaged products, ensuring control of quality and organic certification, as well as providing traceability from the farm to the retail shelf. Current production capabilities include natural and organic soymilk, rice beverage,almond beverage, hemp milk, sunflower milk, teas, and broths among others. Once these filler installations are completed, the Company expects to have total annual production capacity in excess of 400 million quarts of shelf-stable beverages.