Stevia producer PureCircle has partnered to farmers in North Carolina who previously grew tobacco through a programme to boost stevia output.
The company has planted and harvested its StarLeaf stevia in small trial plots, as part of an initiative to provide economic opportunities for tobacco farmers looking for a sustainable crop ‘which is in high demand by the global food and beverage industry’.
PureCircle’s StarLeaf is a variety of the stevia plant that is said to contain rich amounts of the most sugar-like tasting, zero-calorie stevia sweeteners. The project in North Carolina is part of PureCircle’s global programme to scale up StarLeaf production, while also providing domestically grown stevia to the North American market.
The trials confirmed stevia grows well in soil and climate conditions that were conducive to growing tobacco. PureCircle said that with the declining demand for tobacco, stevia cultivation offers farmers in North Carolina the opportunity to increase returns and productivity of their acreage.
PureCircle vice president of agricultural operations James Foxton said: “We are proud to introduce stevia as a crop in North Carolina. This programme will boost the economic prospects of agriculture in that state by providing a viable alternative to tobacco.
“We look forward to working together with farmers in expanding stevia production and establishing a North American stevia supply chain for PureCircle.”
Following the successful trials, the company and its partner farmers aim to significantly increase commercial production of StarLeaf stevia for the next planting season.
Earlier this year scientists from PureCircle mapped the genetic make-up of the stevia plant for the first time, providing a better understanding of how stevia derives its characteristic sweetness.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2018