The stevia market is “turning quickly into the wild wild West” as more firms enter the fray in a bid to cash in on growing demand for the all-natural sweetener, according to one supplier.
Yonatan Brenner – sales and marketing chief at Israeli ingredients specialist Brenner pharma/food - was speaking to FoodNavigator-USA as its Chinese partner Chengdu Wagott Pharmaceuticals Co launched a new range of tabletop Reb A stevia-based sweeteners targeting the private-label market.
‘Outsourcing, rebranding, bottom-end offers’
He added: “The stevia market is turning quickly into the wild wild West, with many offers and a growing vagueness as to who actually 'raised this baby up'.
“While there are several expert manufacturers with a definitive agricultural agenda – which in my perception is key - there is also a lot of outsourcing, rebranding and bottom end offers from various traders.
"When you are dealing with plant extracts, you want to have a system which grows and controls the plant itself, and when you are reaching out to the mass market, you want to rely on that system, not on outsourcing."
Wagott controls its own supply chain from the field to finished products, he said. “Its scientific orientation is also the base for continued evolution of the ways to utilize the steviol glycosides within this wonderful plant, as well as its other attributes such as antioxidants.
“Controlled growing conditions across 12,000 acres in five separate regions of China mean guaranteed supply; but also important quality controls for standardizing the flavor profile. This includes 300 acres of certified organic stevia offered to US and EU markets.”
We’d like to put a 'real' stevia tabletop sweetener on the market…
Brenner pharma/food has been working with Wagott in a business development role, said Brenner. “Part of our work is to present [to Wagott] Israeli - or other -science/ know how, which is then evaluated to see if it can be grown into actual business using Wagott's agricultural and botanical extraction expertise.
“The second part of our work is the promotion and marketing of Wagott's stevia extracts line, branded ViaSweet.”
Wagott’s new tabletop formulations are being targeted at customers in the US, Asia, the EU, Israel and South Africa, said Brenner. “We are not marking up Wagott's goods through a standard distribution arrangement, but rather representing them directly.
“We are offering several solutions. The first is a patented liquid solution called Stevinol. The others are tablets, available in blisters, dispensers or bulk.
“The key is to use as much stevia as permitted, and decrease usage of other sweeteners. We would like to put a real stevia sweetener on the market.”
Clean flavor profile
He added, “We are cooperating with well-known toll manufacturers in Europe and Israel for three distinct options, with ViaSweet inside. We are extremely pleased with the finished product results, having successfully maintained the clean flavor profile of Wagott’s Stevia.”
Several “major beverage and food brands” in Europe had started to develop products containing ViaSweet in anticipation of regulatory approval in the EU, he said.
Botanical extracts specialist Chengdu, which is also an expert in green tea, milk thistle, pomegranate and rhodiola, recently increased its extraction capacity for stevia from 200t to 500t after opening its second botanical extraction facility in June.
The firm secured self-affirmed GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status for ViaSweet earlier this year.