Stevia producer PureCircle has expanded its capacity for Reb M stevia, as it plans to double production capacity over the next three years.
The company has reached a volume sufficient to sweeten around 500 million cases of carbonated soft drinks, but plans to be able to provide enough Reb M stevia to sweeten 1 billion cases by 2021. The way in which the company has chosen to quantify this capacity – in millions of CSD cases – demonstrates the emphasis it is placing on the zero-calorie soft drinks category.
In its drive to encourage uptake among manufacturers, PureCircle has predicted that the cost of using Reb M stevia to sweeten food and beverage products will – over time – become equivalent to the cost of sugar to achieve the same level of sweetening.
Reb M is the variant of stevia sweetener which has the most sugar-like taste and which is most sought after by beverage and food companies – but until now it was only present in the stevia plant in relatively small amounts. PureCircle’s Starleaf stevia contains greater amounts of both Reb D and Reb M than conventional stevia plants, and the company has also found a new method of developing both Reb D and Reb M from the more abundant Reb A strain during the production process.
The resulting Reb M – as well as the Reb M derived from the Starleaf plant – are identical in taste to conventionally extracted stevia, and also non-GMO.
A spokesperson for PureCircle said: “[Our] expansion in production of Reb M will help companies obtain supplies of an ingredient they need, as they respond to their consumers’ desires for more zero- and low-calorie products using plant-based sweeteners.”
In March, the company, which is headquartered in Malaysia, claimed that the number of product launches featuring stevia as an ingredient had gone up by 10% in a year. Citing research from Mintel, PureCircle said that snacks, juice drinks, dairy products, carbonated soft drinks and confectionery were the five categories in which stevia launches were most common during 2017.
“The story of stevia is evolving,” a PureCircle spokesperson told FoodBev. “Not long ago, it was a little-known, plant-based sweetener – basically one ingredient – that worked well in some beverage and food applications.
“But today, we offer a range of stevia leaf sweetener ingredients with sugar-like taste and zero calories. These ‘from-nature’ sweeteners – often used in combinations with each other – work well in a wide variety of beverages and foods, and that is advantageous for beverage and food companies.”
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2019