Stevia supplier GLG Life Tech is to team up with Indian agribusiness group Global Agri in a bid to develop the market for the sweetener in the country.
GLG said yesterday (6 October) the two sides will develop and market stevia extracts in India and the Middle East.
Under the deal, Global Agri will market GLG’s products including BlendSure, Rebpure and Rebsweet.
GLG chairman and CEO Dr Luke Zhang said the company was “enthusiastic” about its venture with Global Agri.
“With their experience in both agriculture and the marketing of food and beverage products in India and the Middle East, we believe we have the strongest possible partner for these important markets and the expansion of our agricultural base. India has a large population with health challenges that include diabetes and obesity and we believe that stevia will be an important healthy sweetener option for this market,” Dr Zhang said.
Global Agri chairman Gokul Patnaik added: “India offers a natural market for stevia, given the propensity for sugar consumption in India and the accompanying concerns related to its supply and consumption pattern.”
Stevia is widely used in Asia, notably Japan, and in parts of Latin America but its presence in the global intense sweeteners market remains small. According to data from Leatherhead Food Research, sales of stevia, including crude extract and refined products, reached US$79m in 2009 – accounting for just 6% of the market for intense sweeteners. In volume terms, stevia represents just 2% of the market.
However, as Leatherhead notes, stevia is “one of the most dynamic” sectors within intense sweeteners. US regulatory approval for stevia in 2008 has led to more food and beverage manufacturers turning to the product when developing low-sugar products. Stevia’s status as a natural sweetener has also increased uptake, with consumers demanding more natural products, the Leatherhead report claims.
In Europe, France and Switzerland have also given the green light to the use of stevia and suppliers are waiting for Brussels to formally rule on its use throughout the EU.