Nutritional Outlook

Nutritional Outlook, May 2018

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■ NUTRITIONAL OUTLOOK 28 MAY 2018 Sweeteners An Alternative Cargill emphasizes that it does not propose EverSweet as a complete replacer of leaf- based stevia ingredients. In fact, the compa- ny still of ers and continues to grow its own portfolio of leaf-derived stevia ingredients, including its ViaTech line. T e company also continues to work on breeding improved stevia leaves—and, in fact, Kennedy points out that Cargill's expertise in growing canola crops also informs the company's best prac- tices for breeding stevia plants. Instead of replacing leaf-based stevia, Kennedy says, "EverSweet is meant to open new market opportunities where stevia leaf extract does not play today. Our new sweet- ener will give consumers more options for great-tasting, reduced- and zero-calorie products." At the Natural Products Expo West trade show in Anaheim, CA, in March, Kennedy said the market could even see products launching with EverSweet in the next year or two. She added that, like with stevia sweeteners in general, beverages are often an easier place to start because, unlike with food products, formulators do not have to worry as much about the bulking proper- ties and texture that are lost when replac- ing sugar with a high-intensity sweetener like stevia. T e EverSweet launch was postponed initially, chief y because Cargill and Evolva needed to further improve the process's gly- coside yields and cost parameters, Kennedy told Nutritional Outlook at Natural Products Expo West. "Over time, we've increased the ef ciency of the yeast turning basic sugars into steviol glycosides, as well as improved the ef ciency of the purif cation step. T is has allowed us to produce EverSweet sweet- ener cost-ef ciently." Now, she says, "Cargill has achieved a suit- able scale and cost-ef cient supply of the sweetest steviol glycosides, Reb D and Reb M, through fermentation." Exploring All Avenues Moving forward, Cargill's stevia portfolio looks like it will comprise a combination of leaf-based stevia ingredients and stevia ingre- dients produced through alternative means. Other industry leaders are also evalu- ating their own production processes. In April, PureCircle published a press state- ment noting that, in addition to focusing on extracting higher amounts of Reb M and Reb D from StarLeaf, the company is also exploring other avenues in an attempt to produce more of those glycosides. In the statement, the company said it "now has two ways" of producing Reb D and Reb M. It said: "PureCircle continues to pro- duce Reb D and Reb M by extracting them from its proprietary StarLeaf plants. But now it can also produce Reb D and Reb M in much greater scale, directly using the more abundant Reb A in the production process. T e Reb D and Reb M produced from the two processes are from the stevia leaf and are identical in great taste." Carolyn Clark, Pure- Circle's director of global marketing, says that the details of the process involving Reb A are proprietary, but adds, "T e most important takeaway is all the Reb M and D we produce are from the stevia plant and are identical in great taste." In its public statement, the company fur- ther noted that more consumer brands are "already using PureCircle's Reb D and Reb M in their products" and that "PureCircle's expansion in production of Reb D and Reb M will increase the supply of these stevia sweeteners with the most sugar-like taste." THE ORGANIC-STEVIA CHALLENGE Even as consumer demand for organic products grows at double-digit rates, per latest USDA estimates, challenges remain for sourcing organic stevia, for various reasons. Sup- pliers say that it is diffi cult, for instance, to fi nd an appropriate and affordable supply of organic ethanol, which is used in organic-stevia extraction. Another challenge is fi nding stevia ingredients that are truly pesticide-free, says Mar- garet Gomes, director of marketing for supplier NP Nutra (Gardena, CA). She notes that it is diffi cult to grow stevia without the use of pesticides. Recently, however, her company announced it has added an organic stevia P.E. 90% ingredient to its offerings. NP Nutra's ingredient is certifi ed organic, Gomes says, but the company does not rely on the word of manufacturing partners that their raw materials are organic. Oftentimes, she says, the company has found that even ingredients that raw-material suppliers pass off as certifi ed organic are not truly organic grade. "Because it is not easy to grow stevia leaves without the use of pesticides, not that many companies offer organic stevia that is free of pesticide residues," Gomes says. "We have had many instances where we have tested products with all the organic certifi cations, yet there have been issues, particularly with pesticide residues over the 0.01 ppm limit." For this reason, Gomes says, NP Nutra always lot tests all of its organic stevia itself through its Triple-T Verifi cation Program—a program introduced last year that includes a battery of pesticide and contaminant tests—in order to ensure compliance with organic regulations. "NP Nutra doesn't rely on the supplier certifi cations to validate our organic products; we test them ourselves," she says. The Triple-T program also includes strict vendor-qualifi cation protocols, including on- site audits, and ingredient traceability via transaction certifi cates. Gomes says that fi nding a quality raw-material supplier is a diffi cult task and that NP Nutra was fortunate to fi nd its organic stevia supplier. "We currently source our organic stevia from China," Gomes says. "After sourcing and testing stevia samples from different countries, we found that our existing manufacturing partner is the only one that has all the required quality procedures in place. We are currently evaluating a secondary manufacturing partner from another country as well." In order to grow the organic stevia supply, she says, suppliers are forging partnerships with stevia leaf farmers and working with stevia farming associations for support. For now, Gomes says, "It appears…that supply of organic stevia will not catch up with de- mand for a few more years."

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