Stevia supplier GLG Life Tech has signed a deal to sell and distribute zero-calorie food and beverage products in China that are sweetened with the natural sweetener.

GLG will join forces with China Agriculture and Healthy Foods Co. (CAHFC) to set up a venture, Dr Zhang’s All Natural and Zero Calorie Beverage and Foods Co (ANOC).

CAHFC, which will take an 20% stake in ANOC, has spent two years developing the venture’s production capabilities and GLG said the Chinese firm has developed 30 drink and 300 food products for the “all-natural, zero-calorie product category”. The products will use GLG’s stevia extract as the main sweetener.

GLG chairman and CEO Dr Luke Zhang, who will become the chief executive of ANOC, said the venture would give the stevia supplier “a great opportunity” to enter China, which he described as “one of the biggest consumer product markets with one of the fastest growing beverage industry in the world today”.

He added: “This joint venture is an opportunity to leverage the two company’s strengths to participate in the growing China food and beverage industry, a market which GLG believes is largely untapped. The joint venture has assembled a very strong team of executives from the beverage industry in China in order to try to capitalize on this opportunity. [GLG] anticipates a quick roll-out of ANOC’s products starting in the first quarter of 2011 and our goal is to achieve CNY3.75bn sales in 2013.”

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