SUGAR LAND, TEXAS — Imperial Sugar Co. and PureCircle Ltd., a producer of the sweetener stevia, have formed Natural Sweet Ventures L.L.C., a joint venture exclusive to North America that will combine both sugar and stevia to develop reduced-calorie products for the food and beverage category.

“We are delighted to partner with PureCircle to develop a specialty product line for customers seeking lower calorie, natural sweetening solutions,” said John C. Sheptor, president and chief executive officer of Imperial Sugar. “Natural Sweet is a complement to Imperial’s core sugar business and consistent with our strategy to expand value-added natural offerings. This exclusive partnership gives Natural Sweet a technological advantage as we collaborate with customers to deliver products that meet their distinct needs.”

The Natural Sweet L.L.C. product line will feature a variety of product formats, including liquid for the beverage industry; crystallized baking and confection applications; the ability to achieve a variety of calorie-reduction levels; and a sugar option that features the added benefits of being temperature and pH stable, and uniform dispersion of both sugar and stevia.

“Natural Sweet is a major opportunity for the U.S. consumer in their quest for quality, natural beverage and food alternatives that combine great taste with controlled calories,” said Magomet Malsagov, president and c.e.o. of PureCircle Ltd. “When we were looking for a partner for the important North American market, there was really only one choice. Imperial stood out above the crowd for its commitment to innovation, naturally sweet products and outstanding customer service.”

Products for the joint venture will be produced at Imperial Sugar’s Port Wentworth, Ga., refinery and marketed by the sales teams of both Imperial and PureCircle.