The two companies announced that their development program for fermentation-based steviol glycosides is already moving into pilot scale, “potentially making it available for commercialization sooner than expected”.
As reported by FoodNavigator-USA earlier this year, the initial timetable for pilot scale product for the steviol glycosides was scheduled for 2014, with the first fermentation-derived steviol glycoside product expected to be available for commercial launch in 2015/2016.
However, David Henstrom, global business director for Health Ingredients, Cargill Corn Milling North America, told us that, “[while] the pace of progress for this development program continues to exceed our expectations, we are not commenting on commercial availability at this time.”
“When you consider that this collaboration on steviol glycosides is barely six months old, we can certainly say that the complimentary skills and capabilities between our two organizations is a key element of our strong technical progress to-date,” added Henstrom.
The companies announced the partnership for the development and commercialization of the fermentation-derived steviol glycosides on 5 March 2013. As part of the agreement, Cargill made a US$5 million) equity investment in Evolva, with the Swiss company set to receive up to US$7.5 million in milestone payments.
The partnership has consistently touted the benefits to food and beverage manufacturers of the fermentation-derived steviol glycosides by “enabling cost-effective, commercially relevant sweetening solutions that include the best-tasting minor steviol glycosides”.
“The stevia market is focused on understanding the subtleties of how different steviol glycosides interact to create the most pleasing sweetness profile,” said Henstrom. “This technology complements Cargill's existing and forthcoming innovations in stevia-based sweeteners.”
Henstrom added that, while one of the goals of this development program is to optimize cost, it is too early to know how it will affect pricing.
Evolva has been working on the technology for the past several years, to produce commercially viable sweeteners that are molecularly identical to stevia extracts, but without relying on the cultivation, processing and refining of stevia plants.
It claims that the fermentation process will allow it to select and produce specific steviol glycosides – the components responsible for stevia’s sweet taste. This means it could produce different, lower cost, and perhaps better-tasting, steviol glycosides in quantities that are currently not commercially viable because of their low concentration in the stevia leaf.
Evolva says its process adapts fermentation technology to produce steviol glycosides through low-cost, sustainable carbohydrate feedstocks that can be sourced “virtually anywhere on the planet”.
“The pace of progress in this collaboration with Cargill has exceeded our expectations,” said Neil Goldsmith, CEO of Evolva. “This is terrific news for not only producers, but also for the consumers around the world who will be able to enjoy a much broader spectrum of reduced-calorie products.”