Cott Corp. has made another move to gain access to the Chinese soft drinks market.

The Canada-based company has signed a letter of intent on a deal with China's Jianlibao Group, a soft drinks bottler based in the country's Guangdong province.

Cott, the world's largest supplier to retailers of own-label soft drinks, has now signed four similar agreements with bottlers in China. It hopes the deals will enable it to tap into the booming economy.

"Obviously, there is significant growth potential in that market," a Cott spokesperson in Toronto told just-drinks last night (11 January). "These agreements are all still being worked on but the meetings we've had have gone very well and everyone seems very excited."

Cott hopes to finalise the agreements during the first quarter of the year. The spokesperson was unable to be more specific on the timeframe.

However, she said Cott is looking to widen its presence globally and is building a larger management team that will focus on international markets.

She said: "International expansion will be a key strategy for us over the next couple of years in both the carbonated soft drink (CSD) and non-CSD segments. The long-term growth for Cott will come from outside North America."

In October, Cott said it would close two facilities in the US with the loss of 350 jobs. The announcement came as a tough North American market hit third-quarter volumes, which fell by over 6%.

The fall came despite a 30% leap in volume sales internationally, driven by the UK and Mexico.