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Goodbye Corn Products International. Hello Ingredion

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What's in a name? Enough for Corn Products International, after more than a century, to ditch the grain from its name and rebrand as Ingredion.

Not that there is any operational imperative.

"Ingredion doesn't represent a change in strategy or a change in the strong business model that we've built," Ilene Gordon, the group's chairman and chief executive, said.

Nor does it look like the company will move away from processing corn.

But what the new names does, Ms Gordon said, is "better reflect the diversity and growth of our product offerings".

The word Ingredion, in the company's opinion, emphasises its "position as a leading supplier of starch and sweetener ingredients to a range of industries, including packaged food, beverage and brewing".

It is, in other words, a shift from focusing on what the group processes to what it produces.

Controversial grain

That's hardly a vote of confidence in corn.

But then a grain once seen as the feed basis for fine-tasting chicken and beef has become an altogether-more controversial crop.

Now, more raw US corn ends up in ethanol than domestic livestock rations, fuelling a food vs energy debate.

And other corn on top ends up in other processing uses, such as making corn-based sweeteners - themselves controversial for alleged links to obesity above those of cane sugar, claims processers strongly dispute.

Arthurian titles

As for whether adopting Ingredion is the right choice as an alternative name, Corn Products at least has the advantage of time, and a public more used to contrived brands dreamed up to avoid clashes with cybersquatters.

The decade since the UK post office was slated for rechristening itself Consignia has spawned a host of better-received names of the variety which sound more like they have been lifted from the legends of King Arthur than the FTSE Global 500.

There is Lucent, the AT&T spin-off, Altria, formerly known as Philip Morris, and Aviva, once plain old UK insurer Norwich Union.


nvestment perspective

So will shareholders approve Ingredion at a meeting in May?

The evidence from an investment perspective is inconclusive. Recent stockmarket performance hardly argues for a name change, with Corn Products shares soaring more than 50% from an early-October low.

Nonetheless, the group, trading a multiple of 11.1 this year's earnings, still suffers a stockmarket discount to peers such as Archer Daniels Midland and UK-based Tate & Lyle.

That's the same Tate & Lyle, by the way, which ditched its sugar operations two years ago to become a very similar enterprise to Corn Products International.But Tate kept the historic brand associated with cane sugar which had made it famous.


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