GLG ramps up Chinese stevia production

GLG Life Tech has revealed plans for a big expansion of its stevia processing capacity in China following the US Food & Drug Administration's decision to declare the zero-calorie sweetener Generally Recognised as Safe.

The company, which has head offices in Vancouver and Beijing, said it would build new factories in Anhui and Jiangshu Provinces, where the company's major stevia leaf growing areas are located.

The new plants would increase GLG's raw stevia leaf processing capacity from 5,000 tonnes now to 41,000 tonnes — an uplift of 720%, the company said.

In addition, GLG said it had completed the upgrade of its 500-tonne high grade stevia processing line to production of 97% rebiana (RA 97).

The line, which opened last May at the company's Qingdao factory in China, was originally built to process up to 500 tonnes of Reb A to a purity level of 80% with a view to the ingredients undergoing further processing to reach RA 97.

GLG said it believed the upgrade would make it the world's largest vertically integrated producer of rebiana.

Kantha Shelke, president of Chicago-based food and nutrition think tank Corvus Blue and Fi editor at large, said GLG was not the only ingredients supplier increasing capabilities in the wake of the FDA's GRAS decision. But she also warned that it was such early days for stevia that it remained "a gamble a best".

"While many of the multinationals and leading brands have or are dabbling in developing stevia/reb A versions of their products, it is important to note that the products are either extensions or new products, but not the flagship products," she said. "Many are watching on the sidelines to see how Sprite Green [Coca-Cola's first stevia-sweetened beverage] is accepted, before making their launches."

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