Nutritional Outlook

Nutritional Outlook, May 2018

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■ NUTRITIONAL OUTLOOK 22 MAY 2018 Sweeteners says. "North Carolina also has the soil and climate conditions conducive to growing stevia plants. We are also able to provide North Carolina's tobacco farmers with new economic opportunities due to the declining demand for tobacco." In a press release, PureCircle stated, "Ex- panding the planting and use of [our] pro- prietary StarLeaf stevia leaf will enable the company to meet the increasing demand of [the] food and beverage industries for the best-tasting—and most sugar-like— zero-calorie stevia sweeteners." Son says PureCircle's long-term plan is to convert all of its stevia crop to StarLeaf. T e conversion process is happening in stages. T e company said it plans to plant 16,000 tons of StarLeaf this year and estimated that 80% of the stevia plants it uses this year will be StarLeaf; by next year, it said, this percent- age could be as high as 90%. In a press release announcing the new StarLeaf plantings, James Foxton, Pure- Circle's vice president of agriculture opera- tions, said, "We look forward to providing food and beverage companies access to the most sugar-like content from the leaf, at a scale which has never before been possible." Other stevia suppliers are also focusing on agronomy improvements to produce more of the minor glycosides. Elaine Yu, president of stevia and monk fruit supplier Layn USA Inc. (Newport Beach, CA), says her company has an innovation center in Shanghai "focused on increasing the yield of exotic steviol gly- cosides like Reb C and Reb D." In February, two companies, natural- sweeteners supplier GLG Life Tech Corp. (GLG; Richmond, BC, Canada) and ingre- dients f rm Archer Daniels Midland (ADM; Decatur, IL), jointly announced the debut of their new Reb M ingredient, which is produced from GLG's proprietary Dream Sweetener stevia leaf. T ey said this leaf is "exceptionally high" in Reb M, in addition to containing Reb A and Reb D. Brian Meadows, GLG's president, says this is the f rst time the company is supplying a Reb M ingredient. GLG and ADM take care to point out that this new Reb M product line is physically extracted from the stevia leaf and produced without the use of fermentation or enzymat- ic processing. A press release from the com- panies states: "Other competing products in IMPROVING THE TASTE OF REB A INGREDIENTS By now, most would call Rebaudioside A a commodity glycoside. Reb A is the steviol glycoside that has been used in the stevia market the longest. It was the fi rst steviol glycoside approved in the U.S. back in 2008. It's the steviol glycoside most present in the stevia leaf. It is produced at largest scale and, as such, is supplied at commod- ity prices. However, one of the common challenges associated with formulating with Reb A is that Reb A has a bitter, lingering aftertaste. Last fall, however, stevia supplier Sweet Green Fields (SGF; Bellingham, WA) announced a new development: its new Optimizer Stevia line that aims to retain the affordability of Reb A but provide a better- tasting ingredient. How did the company improve Reb A's taste? Namely, by blending Reb A with other glycosides. Mel Jackson, PhD, chief science offi cer for Sweet Green Fields, explains that there are "two paths" to improving Reb A's taste. The fi rst is to improve the ingredient's purifi cation. "Purifying Reb A above 97% and eliminating the impurities from the leaf to the largest extent helps obtain a purer sweetness than the crude extracts." The second way, he says, is to include "Reb A in a proprietary combination with other steviol glyco- sides," which is what SGF has done with its new Optimizer Stevia line. Jackson says this approach enabled the company to create Optimizer sweeteners that are more sugar-like and that outperform standard commodity stevia grades (Reb A 80– Reb A 97), while also preserving Reb A's cost advantages. Optimizer Stevia's cost is up to 30% less than that of a more expensive, high-purity Reb A grade like Reb A 99. "Optimiz- ing the blend to produce a desired sensory outcome at an affordable price has resulted in compositions that can easily outperform Reb A–dominated stevia extracts and provide a cost savings," he says. He adds that the four ingredients in the Optimizer Stevia line are best suited to "formulators who are aiming to achieve a medium level of sugar reduction, typically up to 6 brix." Last April, Sweet Green Fields entered into an exclusive distribution partnership with in- gredients distributor Tate & Lyle (London). Tate & Lyle is distributing SGF's stevia products, including the new Optimizer Stevia line. Jackson says that while he believes highly purifi ed Reb A products are "losing market share to some proprietary stevia extracts that are promoted heavily by the leading stevia suppliers in recent years," Reb A ingredients still have their place in the market, and they are not going away anytime soon. "For now, Reb A is prevailing due to cost considerations and partially the time it takes to test and commercialize a new ingredient in consumer products," he says. Combina- tions are likely the way forward, he says, as "more customers are trialing and starting to like the taste profi le of the steviol glycosides compositions—for example, Reb A with Reb B, Reb C, Reb D, Reb M, stevioside, and others." PHOTO FROM SWEET GREEN FIELDS

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