The first products containing the steviol glycoside Reb D - which has “one of the best sweetness profiles of any steviol glycoside from the stevia leaf” - will be introduced in the US in the second half of this year, says PureCircle.
High-purity Reb D is the latest in a series of stevia-based natural sweeteners from PureCircle that move beyond the best-known steviol glycoside Rebaudioside-A (Reb-A), which works well in soft drinks but has a bitter aftertaste that some formulators have struggled to mask.
Reb D is particularly suitable for very sweet low or zero calorie products such as carbonated soft drinks, said PureCircle, which has now formally submitted a GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) notification for its high-purity Reb D to the FDA for review after an independent panel of experts deemed it to be safe.
“PureCircle has begun collaborating with several customers on product development, with primary focus on initial introductions in the United States”, said the firm.
“Substantial investments are focused on scaling this new technology with plans for targeted market introduction as early as the second half of 2013.”
Proprietary high Reb D content leaf varieties
In addition to developing proprietary varieties of stevia plants containing high levels of Reb D, PureCircle has also secured process, method and application patents to protect its Reb D extracts, including a suite of more than 25 patents and patent applications for the ingredient, said CEO Magomet Malsagov.
He added: “With PureCircle’s Stevia 3.0 platform we are bringing our customers the next generation of stevia solutions. We are confident that PureCircle’s Reb D introduction will be a powerful new addition to this platform and will unlock new reduced and zero calorie food and beverage solutions.
“Over the past two years, we have dramatically accelerated the pace of new stevia solutions to the global market. PureCircle was founded on the knowledge that the stevia leaf is a vast source of innovation and we continue to have a rich pipeline of future solutions to come.”
Mining the stevia leaf
Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA last year, PureCircle’s vice president global marketing & innovation Jason Hecker said that the stevia market was evolving rapidly.
“Stevia today is not what was on the market three years ago; we’ve made dramatic leaps in terms of quality.
“Stevia 1.0 was stevia extract, which was uncharacterized and variable. Then you had stevia 2.0, or high-purity Reb-A [steviol glycoside Rebaudioside-A], which was consistent product. Now we have stevia 3.0, where we’re developing other ingredients from the leaf as well.
“We were the pioneers of high purity Reb-A but we’ve since diversified into other natural sweeteners with SG95 [a combination of nine steviol glycosides that is 230 times sweeter than sugar]; PureCircle Alpha [another combination of steviol glycosides with a ‘clean, sugar-like taste’]; and Sweta [a blend of steviol glycosides up to 120 times sweeter than sugar].”
PureCircle - which recently struck a deal with Coca-Cola to develop stevia sweeteners that could lead to a five-year supply deal - posted a 15% drop in 2012 revenues to $45.4m and a $15.2m operating loss.
However, the sales dip was “principally due to the continued impact of inventory at beverage global key accounts” said chairman Paul Selway-Swift, who noted that the new blends of steviol glycosides had performed well.
He added: “Volume increases were led by sales of the portfolio of proprietary new ingredients introduced over the past eighteen months… Reb A contributed just 40% of revenues in 2012 [vs 90% in 2009].”
Meanwhile, encouraging growth in usage suggested “large scale adoption will be apparent during calendar years 2013 and 2014”, he predicted.