Sweet Green Fields has scored another industry first with the planting of the first commercial stevia crops in the Southeast United States.
The firm, which also grows stevia in California, is now in the process of transplanting this year’s crop in Georgia, and will start planting in North Carolina in the coming weeks.
VP of agricultural operations Hal Teegarden said: “We are investing heavily in our American grown crops and linking our advanced agriculture practices with our industry leading plant research in order to create stevia products that are competitive on a global level, while being grown right in our own backyard.”
Lower calorie, great-tasting natural products
Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA in February, vp marketing Jim Kempland said SGF had generated “incremental gains every year since 2006, with no big fluctuations”, in stark contrast to some other players in the stevia supply market.
He added: “Reb-A is not just about zero-calorie… There is a need on the full-calorie side where people want a lower calorie great-tasting, natural product – and here you can combine sucrose and stevia and get a 50% calorie reduction.
“Look at the best-selling products at the moment. It’s things like Trop50, which uses natural sweeteners to lower calories in a great-tasting product.”
Bitter aftertaste concerns have been over played
Meanwhile, the issue of lingering bitterness had been given disproportionate attention, he argued.
“All high intensity sweeteners have these issues to deal with, but with stevia, you can purify it to a high degree and eliminate the bitter compounds – the extraction process is as much about what is being taken out as what you’re leaving in.”
He added: “As for applications, the industry has learned a lot since 2008. There are a lot of things people said couldn’t be done and they are being done.”