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Cargill Dow Launches New Fiber

NEW YORK — Cargill Dow LLC is preparing to launch a new fiber made from polylactic acid, a corn derivative.<br><br>That technology makes synthetic fiber producers less dependent on oil. Fibers made from polylactic acid, in theory, wouldn’t...

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NEW YORK — Cargill Dow LLC is preparing to launch a new fiber made from polylactic acid, a corn derivative.

That technology makes synthetic fiber producers less dependent on oil. Fibers made from polylactic acid, in theory, wouldn’t experience price fluctuations based on changes in the price of oil.

Until a launch event scheduled for Jan. 21 in New York, Cargill Dow officials aren’t saying much about the fiber.

But a search of U.S. Patent and Trade-mark Office records shows the company trademarked the brand name “Ingeo” on Dec. 17. Ingeo was described in that filing as a polylactic acid fiber used as a component of clothing.

Several major mills and apparel brands have signed on to use the fiber.

Malden Mills Industries Inc. and Ge-Ray Fabrics Inc. confirmed they will produce and distribute fabric made with the PLA fibers. Mill executives said they will begin selling fabrics using Ingeo in the next few months.

Further, according to one source close to Cargill Dow, other mills partnering for the launch include Burlington Industries Inc. and Milliken & Co. High-end Italian denim brand Diesel also signed a letter of intent to use the fiber in some of its apparel, the source said. Calls to those three companies were not returned by press time.

“They approached us about a month ago,” said Dean Starker, vice president of marketing at Ge-Ray Fabrics. “We weren’t involved in the research and development, but anytime something comes into this market that is new and has a twist, we’re always interested. This product has added value for our customer.”

Starker said end-uses for the new fiber will most likely be in activewear and sportswear.

“We’re going to take it to all of our clients,” Starker said. “The yarn has only been available for the last couple of weeks and we have to run trials, so it will take at least three to five weeks before it can go out.”

According to sources, Ingeo’s primary raw material will be corn. Dow already sells a PLA fiber under the NatureWorks name, which is also corn-based. A Dow spokesman declined to comment for this story, and it could not be learned how the chemistries of Ingeo and Natureworks differed.

This story first appeared in the January 14, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Created in 2000, NatureWorks features distinct properties such as low moisture absorption, low flammability, resistance to ultraviolet light and lightweight properties. As reported, these characteristics helped convince the Federal Trade Commission to assign a generic name to the fiber on Feb. 4, 2002. The new generic, dubbed PLA, refers to the polylactic acid derived from natural sugars in corn and beets.

Cargill Dow originally petitioned to call the generic category “Synterra,” but the FTC rejected it because it could be confused with other products in the market.

Not long after the FTC’s acceptance of PLA, DuPont requested a new generic for its T400 fiber under the name elasterell-p. The company launched the fiber in 2001 for use in knitwear and wovens. The FTC approved elasterell-p as a generic on Nov. 27.

Cargill Dow is producing PLA in a new factory in Blair, Neb., that opened in November 2001. The company said the plant will eventually produce 300 million pounds of PLA a year and will supply U.S., European and Asia-Pacific markets.

A Web site, ingeoapparel.biz, describes Ingeo as a new fiber and features a registration form for the Jan. 21 launch event at the Eyebeam Atelier in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. It was not clear who built or maintained the site.

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