Leading stevia supplier PureCircle says “investments and assets are in place from agriculture to manufacturing” to be ready to commercialize two next generation stevia products - Reb D and Reb X - in 2014.
PureCircle has been working on several new stevia products including Reb D, which is claimed to have “one of the best sweetness profiles of any steviol glycoside”; and Reb X, an ingredient it has been jointly developing with Coca-Cola.
The FDA issued a ‘No Objection’ letter to PureCircle’s GRAS determination for Reb D in the summer, while its GRAS determination for Reb X has also been formally submitted to the FDA for the agency’s additional safety review.
In an update with its interim results today, PureCircle said approval [presumably in the form of a no objection letter to its GRAS determination] for Reb X was "expected" in October 2013.
Few details have been released about Reb X beyond some snippets in stock exchange announcements, in which PureCircle has said it is working with Coca-Cola on a “stevia-sweetener product as a commercially viable food ingredient”.
Reb-D meanwhile, is claimed to work particularly well in cola applications.
Reb D has generated interest among a number of customers
In patent application #13605644 filed in Sept 2012, published in March 2013, PepsiCo describes a series of cola-type beverages and concentrates sweetened with Reb-D and noted "that rebaudioside D in an aqueous solution, an acidic aqueous solution, and an acidic aqueous carbonated solution, provides the same or significantly higher sweetness than the same concentration of rebaudioside A in otherwise identical formulations".
It also "provides significantly lower bitterness than the same concentration of rebaudioside A in otherwise identical formulations”, said PepsiCo.
While Reb-A is typically present in the stevia leaf in higher quantities (2-4% by dry weight) than other glycosides, it creates “off-tastes in many beverage formulations, especially… carbonated cola flavored beverages, for example slow on-set of sweetness, bitter aftertaste, licorice taste, and/or lingering aftertaste”, added PepsiCo.
PureCircle Reb D will be particularly important in enabling customers to develop naturally sweetened formulations with very low to no calories
PureCircle, which has developed proprietary varieties of stevia plants containing high levels of Reb D, has secured process, method and application patents to protect its Reb D extracts.
Vice president global marketing & innovation Jason Hecker recently told FoodNavigator-USA that PureCircle's Reb-D had "generated interest among a number of customers".
He added: "Given its clean profile, PureCircle Reb D will be particularly important in enabling customers to develop naturally sweetened formulations with very low to no calories, particularly in food and beverages with higher sweetness levels, like carbonated soft drinks."
Asked whether Reb-D is approved in Europe, Hecker said: "Reb D is included among the steviol glycosides recognized as part of the current European approval, however at this time it not approved for sale as a standalone food ingredient."
Further improvements in profitability should arise as volumes increase
PureCircle posted a (much reduced) net loss of $9.4m in the year to June 30, while sales surged 57% to $71.2m.
Although sales “still remain modest compared to our invested production capacity” said chairman Paul Selway-Swift, “further improvements in profitability should arise as volumes increases".
In 2013, bosses had seen the “first tangible market indications of stevia developing into a mainstream ingredient”, he added.
“Market adoption of PureCircle high purity stevia ingredients continues to accelerate across all food and beverage categories and all regions of the world. Of particular note in FY13 has been the increasing take up within the large carbonated soft drinks category and in major brand reformulations.
“The reformulation of Sprite in France was extended to the UK, Ireland, Benelux and Switzerland; and Pepsi Next was launched in Australia and France. In the US, Sprite and Fanta Select were test marketed.
“Notable expansion took place in Latin America as well with Fanta, Fresca and Sprite reformulations in Mexico; and in June Coca-Cola Life was launched in Argentina."
PureCircle's business model is designed to operate on a mass volume basis
He added: “PureCircle's business model is designed to operate on a mass volume basis, underpinned by continued product innovation. Perhaps FY13 has provided the first tangible indications of the sales volume growth that can flow from that innovation.
“EU adoption of high purity stevia has been fast and is accelerating with almost 1,000 launches in Calendar Year 2012 alone, the highest of any region.
More products are mainstream formulations
Datamonitor reported 2,600 new products with high purity stevia in 2012, a major acceleration over prior years, added the firm.
“Adoption is broadening across all regions and food and beverage categories. More products are mainstream reformulations.”
Meanwhile, regulatory approvals continue to open up new market opportunities:
“Regulatory approvals for high purity stevia continue with almost 1.6 billion additional consumers given regulatory access to stevia in FY13 following approvals published in Philippines, Thailand, South Africa and Canada; whilst Indonesia and India have also approved and will publish approval in the coming months.”