The ingredient company, based in Canada and China, has just begun operations at the facilities located in the cities of Mingguang and Dongtai, which it claims are currently the two largest stevia leaf processing centers in the world.
Now, after two weeks of production line testing, GLG anticipates achieving annual throughput of an estimated 18,000 metric tons of raw leaf processing capacity at each new facility.
Original capacity estimates for this initial phase were 10,000 metric tons of capacity at each location.
The underestimates were attributed to “conservative planning assumptions and the successful large scale testing of new and innovative technology from the Company's R&D team”, which was not factored into the original capacity expectations.
The improvements also come with significant reductions in both water usage and actual processing time.
GLG said that the new plants will increase the company's total raw leaf processing capacity by 720 percent, from an existing 5,000 metric tons to 41,000 metric tons.
Earlier this week GLG announced it had introduced its new proprietary stevia leaf strain, Huinong 1, which will be used in its 2009 stevia crop. The new strain is said to be a highly durable breed possessing high levels of Rebaudioside A, which is the sweetest of the natural compounds in the stevia leaf.
The Company anticipates increased cost efficiencies through the use of the naturally propagated new strain (non-GMO) by significantly increasing yield per ton of raw leaf.
GLG chairman and CEO, Dr Luke Zhang, said: “The leaf is a vital component in the stevia extraction and production process.
“Through our breeding program, GLG will be able to realize cost efficiencies using our proprietary extraction technology and specially bred stevia leaf strains which provide higher yield.”
Meanwhile the US market for stevia-derived sweeteners, which are natural and zero calorie, opened up last month when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued GRAS (generally recognized as safe) no objection letters for rebiana, (Reb A) at 95 percent purity for use in food and drink.
At the same time GLG announced that it had completed the necessary steps to declare self-affirmed GRAS for its Rebpure product which contains 97 percent pure Rebaudioside A stevia extract.
A few months earlier GLG struck a deal with US-based Weider Global Nutrition to take the sweetener to mass markets around the globe. The new joint business is called GLG Weider Sweet Naturals Corp (or Sweet Naturals).
In January last year FoodNavigator-USA.com reported that GLG had raised CA$34.5m through the issue of additional company shares, to finance the plant expansion project.
At the time GLG said this was to meet the supply needs of a company (confirmed as Cargill) with which it has a five year renewable supplier agreement.
Cargill is also supplied with Reb A by the Malaysian company PureCircle.