With its eye firmly on the Korean food market, US-based sweetener major Stevia Corp. has inked a memorandum of understanding with Taekyung Nongsan, the Korean food ingredients manufacturer, to grow its business in the peninsula.
Stevia Corp.’s focus is on the economic development of the natural sweetener, and said in the statement that both parties intend to enter into a definitive agreement whereby Stevia Corp. will grow and supply agri-crops to Korean company.
Taekyung Nongsan is a subsidiary of NongShim Holdings, a South Korean conglomerate, that manufactures food ingredients that include seasonings, extracts and flavours, spices, soups, sauces and more.
NongShim Holdings has other subsidiaries, including NongShim, South Korea's largest processed food manufacturer, which dominates the domestic instant noodles and snacks market.
As part of the agreement, Taekyung Nongsan has proposed an initial purchase order of 1,000 tonnes of crops grown in Vietnam, and has shown a desire to enter into a long-term collaboration to meet the demand of the Korean market. The agreement will also include forming potential joint ventures and other business arrangements to develop post-harvest processing and manufacturing capabilities.
George Blankenbaker, president at Stevia Corp., said that Vietnam was the obvious choice for stevia production: “Many people believe Vietnam is the next Asian Tiger and with the rising production costs in China and other Asian countries, many international companies are now looking to Vietnam as the next low cost supplier,” said Blankenbaker on the choice of Vietnam as the production sites.
In 2011, Stevia Corp had signed an agreement with a Vietnamese research institute to strengthen knowledge of stevia cultivation and crop management to drive production in the country.
The agreement was with the government-funded National Institute of Medicinal Materials (NIMM), which is based in the capital Hanoi and works in research and development into medicinal plant resources.
The company had also signed a letter of intent with Singapore-based seafood firm Fish International Sourcing House, citing plans to distribute prawns and fish that are nourished with stevia feed to global markets.