Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Fox River introduces socks made from 100% biodegradable corn

Fox River will be part of a four-member U.S. hosiery manufacturing group that will launch socks made with corn-based Ingeo® fiber in Japan at a special event at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo on November 8, 2005. NatureWorks LLC, makers of Ingeo and a subsidiary of Cargill, is coordinating the trip.

According to NatureWorks, Ingeo fiber—the first manmade fiber created from 100% annually renewable resources—is an innovative product that combines the best of both worlds: the performance of a synthetic fiber and the appeal of a natural material. And because it is derived entirely from natural sources, Ingeo fiber contributes to reducing our dependence on limited fossil fuel resources such as oil.

The NatureWorks process starts with simple sugars purchased from a corn wet-mill, the same sugars used in colas and sweeteners. NatureWorks then takes the sugar and ferments it like a wine or beer, and turns it into lactic acid. The lactic acid is what is then turned into the polymer known as NatureWorks PLA. The polymer can then be processed into fibers for countless fabric and fiberfill applications.

Fox River Branded Division President (and Cedar Falls resident) Joel Anderson is excited about this opportunity both for the Ingeo sock launch and for what it means for corn farmers in Iowa. "Of the nearly 2 billion bushels of corn produced in Iowa each year, 410 million bushels are wet-milled into various products that now include socks. Anything we can do to help farmers here in the United States is a great thing," Anderson remarks.

Besides, Fox River who will introduce an Ingeo athletic sock, the other mills include Harriss and Covington Hosiery Mills of High Point, NC, Johnson Hosiery Mills of Hickory, NC, and Twin City Knitting Co. Inc. of Conover, NC. Each mill was chosen because they carry non-competing Ingeo lines which will be presented to leading Japanese retailers The U.S. Department of Commerce and the state commerce departments in North Carolina and Iowa are supporting this sales campaign.

The Hosiery Technology Center in Hickory, NC, has been working this past year with NatureWorks to prototype yarns for hosiery manufacturing. The Center also has conducted tests to assure the viability of the yarn for the hosiery market.

Dan St. Louis, manager of the Hosiery Technology Center in Hickory, NC, says "The undertaking represents the trend of U.S. manufacturers to develop and market new value-added products." According to St. Louis, the products are soft, have excellent wicking and moisture management properties, control odor and are durable.

Fox River's Ingeo athletic sock is made with 90% Ingeo, 8% nylon and 2% Lycra 3D. It will retail for about $9.50 when it is introduced in U.S. sporting goods stores in March 2006.

"We are honored to be invited to this event in Japan," continues Anderson. "The Japanese are forward-thinking about consumer products and their impact on the environment. These socks are made with a renewable product and are completely biodegradable in less than 50 days. For Fox River, it's just one more step on our sustainability path."


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