GLG could look beyond China to help serve stevia market

By Sarah Hills

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Stevia leaf, Stevia, Glg

GLG Life Tech Corporation may open up stevia plants in other countries following the announcement that it has begun operations at two new processing facilities for the sweetener in China.

David Bishop, executive vice president international affairs, told FoodNavigator-USA.com that “GLG is open to operations in other countries”.

However he did not specify where and said that the immediate focus was on developing its multiple China locations.

Bishop said that upwards of 50 percent of its capacity is likely to reach the US market and added: “While we can produce an entire range of purity levels of stevia extract products, we anticipate the near term market demand to be heavily weighted toward rebiana ​(a stevia-derived sweetener).

“We are in talks with some 300 companies globally who are interested in purchasing our products.

“While many of these are small companies, many are multi-national food and beverage (household name) companies.”

GLG’s two new facilities are located in the cities of Mingguang (Anhui Province) and Dongtai (Jiangsu Province), where the company’s major stevia leaf growing areas are located. Together they cost approximately $60m.

There are also long-term plans to open a fourth stevia processing facility in China, in addition to GLG’s original plant located at Qingdao.

Bishop said: “We are planning to expand at both Mingguang and Dongtai in 2009. The lines just opened are Phase 1.

“Long term, we have a 20-year exclusive agreement for growing and to build a processing plant in Juancheng in western Shandong Province.”

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 that after testing, the two new plants are each showing annual processing capacity of 18,000 metric tons of raw leaf, whereas the original projections before factoring in its new technological innovations were 10,000 MT at each plant.

Opening the US market

Rebiana (or Rebaudioside A) is the sweetest of the natural compounds in the stevia leaf and last month the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued GRAS (generally recognized as safe) no objection letters for rebiana at 95+ percent purity for use in food and drink.

Last month GLG revealed that it had completed the necessary steps to declare self-affirmed GRAS for its Rebpure trademark product (or RA97) which contains 97 percent pure Rebaudioside A stevia extract.

GLG claims that eighty percent of the world’s high quality stevia leaf supply is grown in China, of which GLG Life Tech controls 85 percent.

The company said it has a supply agreement with Cargill and one of the provisions is to supply a minimum of 80 percent of Cargill’s stevia extract needs for the next five years.

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