PepsiCo and Unilever have announced a major expansion of their Lipton RTD tea business joint venture.

The two companies confirmed today (14 September) that the partnership will spread to a further 11 countries - Germany, Italy, France, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium and Portugal in Europe, as well as South Korea, Taiwan and South Africa.

The expansion builds on the original Pepsi Lipton Tea Partnership North American joint venture in 1991 and on the subsequent Pepsi Lipton International (PLI) joint venture in 2003, which currently spans more than 40 countries worldwide.

The new agreement will more than double PLI's volume, the two companies said. Both PepsiCo and Unilever will continue to own 50% of the joint venture, with PepsiCo paying Unilever an undisclosed sum for its share of the businesses in the new markets being transferred.

"Lipton is one of the world's great beverage brands, and will continue to be a key pillar of our strategy to offer international consumers a portfolio of convenient beverages to address a wide range of needs," said Michael White, CEO of PepsiCo International and vice chairman of PepsiCo.

Vindi Banga, Unilever's president for foods, added: "This agreement gives us the opportunity to build on the tremendous success of the joint ventures to date."

While the agreement remains subject to regulatory approval, the companies said they expect the deal to take effect from the beginning of next year.