PureCircle aims to plant nearly 16,000 tons of its StarLeaf stevia plants in 2018, an increase of about 200% on 2017.
StarLeaf is a proprietary non-GMO stevia plant that is said to yield “roughly 20 times more of the newest and best-tasting stevia leaf sweeteners than conventional stevia varieties”.
With the planned increases in planting, PureCircle estimates that 80% of the stevia plants it uses this year will be StarLeaf, likely increasing to 90% next year.
Pure Circle said that expanding the planting will enable it to meet the increasing demand of food and beverage industries for zero-calorie stevia sweeteners.
The company uses a wide and expanding global agricultural network for its stevia supply, sourcing it from an increasing number of countries around the world.
Part of the dramatic increase in StarLeaf planting this year is the result of new farming partnerships in North Carolina. Some farmers there are starting to use land that once grew tobacco to grow StarLeaf plants.
The food and beverage industry has seen a steady increase in product launches featuring stevia as an ingredient; there was a 10% rise between 2016 and 2017, according to Mintel.
In a statement, PureCircle said: “PureCircle’s research, development and innovation has enabled it to offer a range of stevia-based 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.
“They have an increasing need for just such an ingredient, because consumers, health experts and governments have become increasingly concerned about obesity and diabetes, and have also become increasingly health and wellness conscious.”
Last year, PureCicle announced that its scientists managed to map 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