British Sugar and stevia supplier PureCircle are to form a new joint venture company to market sweetener solutions across the UK, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, China and Africa.
The companies said the equally-owned business, called The Natural Sweetness Company, would offer "a range of products that combine the natural benefits of both sugar and stevia to meet the food and beverage industries' requirements for reduced calorie natural sweet applications."
Mark Carr, chief executive of UK-based British Sugar, said: "We look forward to working together to develop a range of products that can provide an attractive proposition for customers. This agreement complements British Sugar's core sugar business and enhances its product portfolio and growth opportunities."
Magomet Malsagov, CEO and president of Malaysia-based PureCircle, added: "We know that our global customers want naturally reduced calorie sweetener options provided to them around the world to complement their existing sugar options. When we were looking for global partners, British Sugar was the stand out choice across all measures in its core markets. As we work together it is clear that there is a strong alignment in how we see the sweetener market developing."
Stevia is yet to receive formal regulatory approval in the European Union, although in April the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published an opinion stating it was satisfied that sweeteners made with both 95% purity or above steviol glycosides and high purity Rebaudioside A were safe. EFSA's report must now be ratified by the European Commission before becoming law — a process which can take up to a year.