Home-grown stevia crop hits US market

By Sarah Hills

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Sweet green fields Stevia Us

Sweet Green Fields (SGF) has announced its first successful, commercial harvest of stevia grown in the US, which it claims can compete effectively on cost with China.

The company, which produces stevia-derived sweeteners, said it has already begun signing multi-year supply agreements for its US crop, working with national and regional brands.

It also has plans to expand its US harvest, going head-to-head with well established markets including China, where costs such as labor are typically lower.

Dean Francis, CEO of Sweet Green Fields, told FoodNavigatorUSA.com: “What gives us the competitive edge is our plants, which we’ve spent years investing in R&D.

“The result is that our high Reb A content and biomass plants enable SGF to harvest more stevia leaf per acre compared to lower-yielding stevia grown elsewhere.

“While we may have higher technology and labor costs as compared to other global regions, this is offset by our higher yield per acre and allows us to offer competitive pricing.”

Francis said investment in plant breeding had resulted in its 80% plus Reb A content stevia plants, whereas many plants are in the 50%-60% range.

Stevia and Reb A

Reb A (Rebaudioside A) is the sweet good tasting glycoside extracted from stevia plants that is preferred in commercial applications for the food and beverage industry.

SGF’s commercial crop is the first of those high Reb A and biomass plants.

It comes at a time when consumers and food manufacturers are increasingly interested in locally sourced goods.

However, SGF is not alone. Last summer PureCircle signed a five-year deal with California-based S&W Seed Company to provide US-grown stevia on a scale necessary to meet growing demand from American food and beverage companies.

SGF’s stevia crop is also in California and it plans to expand there, as well as in other parts of the US. The company would not reveal volumes but said it had “the capacity to supply major manufactures” ​with its US grown crop.

However, its processing plants are all in China so the US crop leaves will be dried in the US, then shipped to China for the extraction process.

More than eighty percent of the world's stevia originates from China due to low labor costs, according SGF, and sourcing stevia grown locally gives customers added visibility and confidence in their supply chain.

Visibility into agricultural practices was a key reason for SGF investing in US crops.

Another benefit was access to advanced farming know-how as well as advanced technology for automation and scale.

Francis said: “Growing in your own “backyard” lends itself to a higher level of control and quality assurance, which current and prospective client’s value.

“From the US manufacturers’ perspective, many do wish to use products grown right here in the US, both for a higher sense of quality control, as well as to appeal to consumers interested in locally sourced products.”

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