FDA OKs EverSweet GRAS determination, but commercial launch date still to be determined, says Cargill

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

FDA OKs Cargill's EverSweet Reb D, Reb M GRAS determination

Related tags Stevia leaf Stevia Cargill

The FDA has issued a GRAS (generally recognized as safe) no objections letter for EverSweet, Cargill’s hotly-anticipated ‘next-generation’ Reb D and Reb M sweetener – produced via fermentation rather than from the stevia leaf - qualifying it for use in food and beverages.

Cargill is not, however, able to provide any update on the timing of a commercial launch for EverSweet, which was originally pegged for 2016 following a soft launch at the Supply Side West show in 2015.

While Cargill and partner Evolva, which developed the sweetener, say they have nailed the taste, they have not – yet – refined the production process such that costs are at an acceptable level, Evolva acknowledged in March.

EverSweet, said Evolva, would not be launching commercially in 2016​ owing to a “complex combination of factors, including strain characteristics; fermentation and downstream processing costs; facility conversion costs, production scale, customer indications on pricing.”

It added: “Both Cargill and Evolva very recently concluded that prudent to delay launch until the situation is remedied.”

As soon as we can launch, we will…

Asked by FoodNavigator-USA today whether they had a new date in mind, Mandy Kennedy, sr. marketing manager, stevia starches & sweeteners at Cargill North America said: “Work is actively continuing to ensure a launch with appropriate product costs. 

“We are as eager as everyone else in the marketplace to see this product launched, so as soon as we can launch, we will.”

evolva yeast

While the best-known steviol glycoside - Reb A – can be extracted from the stevia leaf in commercial quantities, it has a bitter aftertaste that formulators have struggled to overcome in certain applications.

However, better-tasting steviol glycosides such as Reb M and Reb D are present in the stevia leaf in such tiny quantities (less than 0.5% by dry leaf weight) that it is not commercially viable or environmentally responsible (you’d need huge amounts of land devoted to stevia plants) to extract them from stevia leaves.

By using a genetically engineered baker’s yeast to convert sugars (Cargill is using corn dextrose as a feedstock but could use cane sugar) into these more desirable glycosides via a fermentation process, Cargill and Evolva can produce them on a commercial scale.

carbonated soft drinks cans

According to Cargill, EverSweet delivers “a great taste with better sweetness intensity, faster sweetness onset and improved sweetness quality - without the bitterness or off-note aftertaste common with other stevia sweeteners.”

EverSweet works particularly well in low and zero calorie beverages

While the production process has been getting more media attention than the products, the feedback from leading CPG companies suggests EverSweet could be a game-changer in the beverage industry as firms look to make more drastic reductions in sugar, Cargill told FoodNavigator-USA last year.

If the first wave of Reb-A sweeteners enabled sugar reductions of 30%, and platforms such as Cargill’s ViaTech​ have since pushed the bar to 70% or more, Reb D and Reb M can deliver the Holy Grail in beverage formulation, a zero calorie cola, without any bitter aftertaste, the company claimed.

Cargill has also used EverSweet in zero-calorie fruit waters, sweet teas, lemon-lime sodas and other products that have a full-bodied mouthfeel and sugar-like taste profile that is “just not possible​” with the Reb-A based sweeteners currently on the market, the company added.

  • What is EverSweet​? A new high-potency sweetener developed by Swiss synthetic biology pioneer Evolva and US ingredients giant Cargill comprising the steviol glycosides Reb D and Reb M (which are found naturally in the stevia leaf in very low concentrations).
  • How is it made? ​In large fermentation tanks, in which a genetically engineered baker’s yeast converts sugars (in this case, corn dextrose) into Reb D and Reb M. The yeast is completely removed from the final product, which is further concentrated and purified.
  • How is it labeled?​ Reb M and Reb D/steviol glycosides/Rebaudioside M and Rebaudioside D.
  • What are the potential applications​? Everything from dairy to tabletop sweeteners and alcoholic beverages, but low or zero calorie beverages are the sweet spot.
  • Is it safe? ​ Cargill has just received a letter of no objection from the FDA over its GRAS determination for EverSweet.
  • When will it launch? ​TBD
  • Is it ‘natural’?​ Cargill isn’t actively marketing EverSweet as a natural sweetener, and says it has worked extensively with consumers, NGOs, and customers to decide how to position it to keep everyone happy: “We’re not trying to disguise anything or mislead anyone. We’re not saying EverSweet is from the stevia leaf; we’re not using it in our Truvia stevia business [which uses steviol glycosides extracted from stevia leaves]; and we’re not even actually marketing it as stevia, even though the Reb D and Reb M we’re producing is chemically identical to what you’d extract from the leaf."
  • Is it non-GMO? ​The genetically engineered yeast used to make EverSweet serves as a processing aid, and is not present in the final product, meaning it would not​ require a GMO label in Vermont, which will introduce GMO labeling in July. However, it wouldn’t pass muster with the Non-GMO Project, which says ingredients produced via ‘synthetic biology’ do not qualify for its Non-GMO Project Verified stamp.

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