The soft drinks group Pepsico has created a joint venture with the consumer goods giant Unilever to expand the marketing and distribution of Unilever's range of Lipton ready-to-drink teas.

The 50-50 joint venture - Pepsi Lipton International - builds on the Pepsi-Lipton Tea Partnership, which was formed in 1991 and remains the leading RTD tea player in the US. The companies said that the new JV will target "white space" markets where Lipton currently is unavailable yet PepsiCo has a solid presence. Markets with existing Lipton business - Brazil, Spain, Greece, Russia, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Albania, Romania, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Australia, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi and the six Gulf States - also will be included in the coming months.

Peter Thompson, president and CEO of PepsiCo Beverages International (PBI) said: "We are creating a common vision and tremendous synergies together. This new alliance will enable Lipton to strengthen its global position. At the same time, we are rounding out our portfolio with a strategic partnership in one of the fastest growing beverage segments and providing our customers with Lipton, the world leader in tea."

From Unilever's perspective, the creation of Pepsi Lipton International is in line with the company's "Path to Growth" strategy, given its focus on a leading brand, its move into new channels and its drive into new markets for sustained future growth, a statement said.

Patrick Cescau, director of Unilever Foods Division, said: "We have a strong presence in developing and emerging markets, yet there is plenty of 'white space' to move into. These markets are the next in our planned rollout and we see Pepsi as the best partner to help us achieve this. This new joint venture marks a truly significant step in the expansion of the brand, bringing it within the reach of many millions of new consumers."

The new venture will be overseen by a general manager who will report to a board of directors drawn equally from PepsiCo and Unilever.