Based in Singapore with a US head office in Atlanta, Georgia, Almendra finished building its state-of-the-art stevia manufacturing facility in Thailand last year and started supplying commercial quantities of high-purity Reb A earlier this year to customers all over the world. A new US R&D and applications lab is also in the planning stages.
Commercial director Katherine Oglesby acknowledges that taste can still be a challenge for stevia in some zero calorie beverages, but given that the reformulated Vitaminwater products only used a tiny amount of stevia and still contained 120 calories, it seemed highly unlikely that off tastes reported by fans had anything to do with the natural sweetener, she says.
Click HERE to read about Coca-Cola's decision to switch back to its old sweetening system (cane sugar +crystalline fructose) for selected Vitaminwater products after fans gave the new one (cane sugar + stevia) the thumbs down.
There wasn’t enough stevia in the formulation to ruin the taste of a 120 calorie product
Indeed, a closer look at the recipe change suggests that something else was likely responsible for the unpleasant taste reported by some Vitaminwater fans, Oglesby told FoodNavigator-USA.
“With no calorie change, stevia must have replaced about 1 Brix of sweetness, enough to require labeling but certainly not enough to ruin the taste of a 120-calorie per bottle product.”
Meanwhile, Vitaminwater Zero contains stevia - at far higher levels - and is doing very well, she says. “Having tasted the [reformulated 120 cal Vitaminwater] products and experienced the bad taste myself, it was not due to the stevia sweetener, not stevia produced by my company and not stevia produced by our competitors.”
But while the undeserved bad PR generated by this incident has been frustrating for stevia suppliers, she adds, most formulators are still enthusiastic about working with the natural sweetener, provided they can find products that meet their needs.
‘We have the highest purity Reb-A on the market’
So where does Almendra fit into the stevia marketplace, and is there room for a new player?
Absolutely, says Oglesby, who claims that Almendra’s flagship Steviose 100 product - which boasts a Reb-A content of 99.5% - “lingers less than any other stevia sweetener”, has the fastest cold water solubility of any stevia extract on the market, and is “the highest purity product” available commercially.
Quality of Reb-A products is getting better all the time
High-purity Reb-A products such as Steviose 100 also represent a “more viable” alternative to steviol glycosides such as Reb D and Reb X, which are claimed to taste better, but are only found in tiny quantities in the stevia plant, she says, so cost a fortune to extract from the leaf in commercial quantities.
While some firms have tackled this issue by developing fermentation-based techniques to produce these ‘minor’ glycosides on an industrial scale, it’s still not clear whether consumers (and plaintiff’s attorneys) will accept them in ‘all-natural’ products, she claims. So for Almendra, leaf-derived Reb-A seemed like a safer horse to back.
“We continue our commitment to Reb-A as the only truly commercially viable natural high-potency sweetener. Our goal is to make Reb-A a more perfect replacement for sugar.”
Click HERE to read more about Almendra.