Aug. 29--Yuba City-based
The agreements were signed with Qualipride International Ltd., headquartered in the city of Zibo in Shandong province.
In a media release, Stevia said it considers the agreements an "opportunity to accelerate commercial activities (to help meet) increasing global demand for stevia as a growing number of multinational beverage companies seek a dramatic increase in the total output of the stevia industry."
Stevia, a plant native to South America, is a zero-calorie alternative to other commercial sweeteners. It has long been used in Japan and has seen increased use throughout Europe in recent years. Most of the world's refining and processing of stevia is in China.
Besides developing a stevia crop in California, Stevia First also is working to enhance processing of stevia extract and to build up a North American supply/production chain for the product. Ultimately, the company said, that could result in the opening of facilities in California.
The regional company said it has begun marketing stevia products to multinational food, beverage and ingredient manufacturers.