US firm part­ners with ste­via maker

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSSAMERICA - By JACK FREIFELDER in New York jack­freifelder@ chi­nadai­

A part­ner­ship between a Cal­i­for­nia-based biotech­nol­ogy com­pany and a lead­ing Chi­nese pro­ducer of ste­via plant extracts gives both groups a solid base for fur­ther re­search and devel­op­ment (R & D) in de­ter­min­ing the po­ten­tial value of ste­via ex­trac­tion, ac­cord­ing to com­pany ex­ec­u­tives.

Robert Brooke, CEO of the Ste­via First Corp, said the al­liance between his firm and Qualipride In­ter­na­tional Ltd would give the two busi­nesses a long-term over­seas part­ner in the ste­via ex­tract in­dus­try.

“Ste­via cul­ti­va­tion is ac­tively ex­pand­ing into new re­gions … and the mar­ket for this prod­uct is con­sid­er­able,” Brooke told China Daily. “We have es­tab­lished a pro­duc­tive re­la­tion­ship with Qualipride and our dis­tri­bu­tion agree­ment pro­vides sig­nif­i­cant ben­e­fits. And as this ex­pan­sion in­creases, there will be im­prove­ments in the agri­cul­tural prac­tices due to shared in­sights and tools.”

On Tues­day, Ste­via First Corp, a Cal­i­for­nia-based agri­cul­tural biotech­nol­ogy com­pany, an­nounced a se­ries of dis­tri­bu­tion and li­cens­ing agree­ments with Qualipride, China’s lead­ing pro­ducer of re­fined pu­ri­fied ste­viol gly­co­sides.

Ste­via, an herb na­tive to South Amer­ica, has be­come an in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar player in the food and bev­er­age in­dus­try due to its unique po­si­tion as an all-nat­u­ral zero-calo­rie sweet­ener.

And ste­viol gly­co­sides are the sweet com­pounds con­tained within the leaves of the ste­via plant.

A press re­lease an­nounc­ing the deal said the two groups “signed de­fin­i­tive agree­ments” with one an­other, giv­ing US firm Ste­via First exclusive rights to dis­trib­ute Qualipride’s ste­via seed, leaf and ex­tract prod­ucts out­side of China.

The terms of the part­ner­ship stip­u­late that Ste­via First can make use of its Chi­nese coun­ter­part’s “pro­pri­etary meth­ods of ste­via ex­trac­tion and re­fin­ing”.

And as part of the pact, sev­eral Qualipride of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing Dong Yue­jin, the com­pany pres­i­dent, will be join­ing Ste­via First as part of the lat­ter’s newly re­vised man­age­ment team.

Dong, who joined Ste­via as an ad­vi­sory board mem­ber in 2012, said his com­pany is “ea­ger” to take the ini­tial steps in its most re­cent part­ner­ship with Ste­via First.

“Our proven abil­ity to de­liver on large or­ders, com­bined with a mu­tual in­ter­est in long-term R&D, is a pow­er­ful com­bi­na­tion,” Dong said in a Tues­day press re­lease.

Ste­via First, founded in 2007 and based in Yuba City, Cal­i­for­nia, fo­cuses on the largescale in­dus­trial pro­duc­tion of ste­via. Qualipride, which main­tains its head­quar­ters in Zibo, Shan­dong prov­ince, has been China’s lead­ing pro­ducer of pure ste­via extracts for the bet­ter part of the last two decades.

“[Ste­via] was ap­proved by the FDA in 2008 and in Europe in 2011, but in the world of sweet­en­ers ste­via is rel­a­tively new,” Rachel Cheatham, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Oak­brook, Illi­nois-based Global Ste­via In­sti­tute said in a Thurs­day in­ter­view with China Daily.

“If we can take an in­gre­di­ent like ste­via and put it in a prod­uct to cut the calo­ries down by a quar­ter, a third or maybe even a half — and still give the con­sumers the sweet taste they ex­pect and want — then it’s a win,” she said.

In­for­ma­tion from the Ste­via First web­site shows that the global sweet­ener mar­ket in 2010, in­clud­ing sugar, had an es­ti­mated value of $58.3 bil­lion.

And es­ti­mates from the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion fore­cast that ste­via could even­tu­ally re­place between 20 per­cent and 30 per­cent of all di­etary sweet­en­ers.

Though ste­via is cul­ti­vated mainly in China, Paraguay, Kenya and the US, Cheatham said ste­via farm­ing is also “in­creas­ing in many other parts of the world.”

A Wed­nes­day re­port in the Sacra­mento Busi­ness Jour­nal said “more than 80 per­cent of ste­via is cul­ti­vated in China”.

“China is one of the main global grow­ers of ste­via,” Cheatham said, “but the US is pick­ing up. Know­ing how to get the crop to be most pro­duc­tive for growth is key, and that ex­per­tise is held in dif­fer­ent com­pa­nies around the globe.”

“Having said that, we’re still in the early years here and there is a lot of devel­op­ment in de­ter­min­ing how [ste­via] works best,” she said.

The fi­nal round of the 2014 New Silk Road Model Con­test North Amer­ica com­pe­ti­tion was held on Wed­nes­day even­ing in Com­merce Casino in Com­merce, Cal­i­for­nia. The 16-year-old Chi­nese Cana­dian, Doreen Wang (sec­ond from right), won the first place in the con­test. Jes­sica Li (right) won the sec­ond place, while Jen­nifer Chu (sec­ond from left) won the third place. Best Pop­u­lar­ity Award went to Michelle Wang (left). As the cham­pion, Doreen Wang is go­ing to rep­re­sent the Los An­ge­les area to par­tic­i­pate in the fi­nal of this year’s New Silk Road Model Con­test in China.

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