Sweet Green Fields expands stevia production in Zhenjiang province

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Picture: Sweet Green Fields
Picture: Sweet Green Fields

Related tags Sweet green fields Stevia

Stevia producer Sweet Green Fields (SGF) will significantly increase its production capacity this year via a new facility in China’s Zhenjiang province expected to come online by the third quarter.

The expansion follows a recent tie up with Tate & Lyle, which distributes SGF stevia sweeteners on a global basis.

The new facility – which will meet growing demand for premium stevia products such as SGF’s new Optimizer line​ – previously produced plant extracts and supplements, and meets international production and environmental codes, said CEO Dean Francis.

“This new facility will consolidate SGF’s position as a supplier of choice by ensuring a stable supply and give us the opportunity to grow for the future."

Shasha Yu, Marketing Director at Sweet Green Fields, told FoodNavigator-USA: “Sweet Green Fields’ main manufacturing facility is located in Anji, Zheng Jiang Province. The sister company in Ningbo is 150 miles from there and can process hundreds of metric tons of stevia leafs per month if additional product demand surges. The new facility is also seated in Zhengjiang Province, 120 miles away from Anji. This setup allows Sweet Green Fields to transport hundreds of thousands of metric tons of stevia leaves while reducing our carbon footprint.”

More application-specific products

If high purity Reb A used to be the only game in town when it comes to stevia, the game has become a lot more sophisticated in the past couple of years as suppliers compete to provide the best-tasting combinations of steviol glycosides, and products become more application-specific, SGF chief science officer Mel Jackson PhD told FoodNavigator-USA in March​.

With added sugar now public enemy #1, soda taxes gaining traction, and added sugar labeling on the horizon, the pressure on manufacturers to reduce sugar is ratcheting up all the time, and manufacturers are looking for more tailored, but still cost-effective, solutions, he added.

Designer blends

At Sweet Green Fields​,​ which merged with its long-time supplier Zhejiang Green World in 2015 to become one of the largest, privately held, fully-integrated stevia ingredient companies in the world, a lot of work has been devoted to engineering an extraction process such that it yields a specific combination of glycosides, rather than individually extracting glycosides, purifying them, and then recombining them, said Dr Jackson.

“We have been using technology that enables us to selectively enhance stevia extracts by engineering the extraction process to get to a desired combination of steviol glycosides straight from the extraction, rather than re-combining individual purified steviol glycosides. We are creating a designer blend, if you like.

“So our Intesse line produces a stevia that is very sugar-like without the typical bitter lingering you get with stevia extracts… The new Optimizer line of products also reflects this technology and really tastes extraordinary.”

Intesse stevia is claimed to deliver a clean and smooth sweet taste at high concentrations for food and beverages with deep sugar reduction goals, while the Optimizer series is designed to replace standardized stevia extracts, "allowing for better taste, higher solubility and lower cost in use,"​ says the company.

Dr Jackson added: “I think a lot of our competitors are re-combining individual purified steviol glycosides, which has some benefits, but there is a cost to that, and also differences in taste because our products contain minor glycosides that are not in their combinations.”

Rapid growth

As a private company, Sweet Green Fields does not share revenues, but it is growing rapidly, he claimed.

“We are growing very quickly now. I think that finally the public and beverage companies have gone through the first stages of understanding the potential of stevia and now we are seeing that reflected in our sales. I would also urge all manufacturers that have tried stevia in the past to keep revisiting it, because in some applications, it really is indistinguishable from full sugar now.”

Sweet Green Fields will be exhibiting at the IFT show at booth #3470

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