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Splenda opens $50m stevia farm in central Florida

Low-calorie sweetener brand Splenda and its parent company, Heartland Food Products, have announced the opening of the “first-ever” fully integrated US-based stevia farm. The 1,465-acre farm was engineered to be eco-conscious with the implementation of socially responsible farming techniques, water conservation measures and waste management. By sourcing stevia from the central Florida farm, the company expects to “eliminate” unnecessary CO2 emissions caused by global stevia supply chain operations, reducing environmental impact. As the farm is vertically integrated, Splenda is able to oversee all aspects of stevia production, from crop propagation to the extraction of glycosides from the leaves. The innovative growing process sees stevia leaves grown from cuttings of mother plants that contain the strongest agricultural properties including the sweetest and best-tasting stevia. The leaves are harvested, steeped in freshwater – where the stevia is then extracted – and filtered, providing pure stevia glycosides for use in food and beverages. As part of the facility’s eco-conscious engineering, the clean stevia leaves are pulled from the steeping tanks and dried for use as animal-feed in agriculture. Ted Gelov, chairman and CEO of Heartland, said: "At Splenda, our mission is to help people live happier, healthier and longer lives by making it easier to reduce sugar. By growing higher-quality stevia plants and producing better and sweeter-tasting stevia sweeteners, we can help consumers achieve their sugar reduction goals." He continued: “By growing stevia in the US, we are helping to build a new American agriculture industry and bring more farming jobs and economic prosperity to Central Florida with this $50 million initial investment. Until now, all stevia has been grown and processed from markets outside the US, mainly China. The approach we've engineered with our Splenda Stevia Farm gives US farmers an opportunity to grow and process stevia right on their own farms.”

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