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Sugar and stevia join forces to cut calories

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 23-Feb-2010

PureCircle and Imperial Sugar have launched a joint venture to offer sugar and stevia combinations to the food and beverage industry as it looks to meet consumer demand for natural lower calorie products.

PureCircle manufactures a natural, high intensity Reb A sweetener derived from the leaves of the stevia plant. It has been positioning the sweetener as a possible complement to sugar for some time, to take advantage of both products’ natural status, meaning that unlike many other sweeteners that could be used to reduce sugar, manufacturers could continue to use a natural claim while cutting calories, as long as the other ingredients in the product are natural.

Natural Sweet Ventures has been created to make use of the technologies and expertise that both companies have developed for sweetening a range of applications.

PureCircle USA’s marketing director Jason Hecker told FoodNavigator-USA.com: “We wanted to make sure that we could make the technology work…It’s really about doing more than just a simple blend. There’s a lot we can do to get the great taste of sugar.”

Natural Sweet will provide both liquid and crystallized sweetener combinations, Hecker said, allowing different levels of calorie reduction according to the application. One of the particular challenges of powdered blends is ensuring an even distribution of Reb A throughout to avoid pockets of intensely sweet stevia, a problem that Natural Sweet claims to have solved through proprietary methods.

The new joint venture has specified dairy, bakery, confectionery and beverages in particular as sectors that could benefit from sugar/stevia blends.

“There’s not a ‘one size fits all’ answer: We could get down to a 75 percent reduction in calories. We are looking at a range of solutions.”

Hecker said that the juice drink Trop 50 is a great example of where a product has been successful in cutting calories by using stevia, without cutting the sweetness of the original product.

“It’s on track to being a $100m brand,” he said.

Commenting on the new venture, president and CEO of Imperial Sugar John Sheptor said: “We are delighted to partner with stevia product leader PureCircle to provide an attractive alternative for customers seeking great tasting, naturally sweet solutions. Natural Sweet Ventures will provide customers a sugar option with additional benefits. The creation of Natural Sweet is consistent with our strategy to expand into value-added natural offerings for customers and enhance shareholder value over time.”

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