The natural herbal sweetener stevia is set to be the big story of 2009—and, as global demand for the botanical heats up, issues surrounding supply quality could take center stage, Frank Jaksch, CEO and co-founder of ChromaDex Inc., told Nutrition Business Journal last week. “Stevia quality varies a lot, and there are a lot of issues that we know about regarding the quality of stevia materials.”
These issues are of great importance to ChromaDex, which announced earlier this month that it had entered into an exclusive agreement with Cargill—maker of the Truvia brand of rebiana (also called Reb-A), a natural sweetener made from stevia leaves—to supply the quality assurance and research tools necessary for analytical testing of stevia-based products, including raw materials and finished sweeteners.
“It will be important for companies using stevia ingredients to select the right standards and analytical methods in differentiating products that meet requirements for food use,” Jaksch said. “By partnering with Cargill, ChromaDex now offers an extensive range of stevia-related sweet compounds as analytical reference standards or research materials.”
The stevia supply market has been a hotbed of activity this year, as companies around the globe scramble to be the first to get stevia-based sweeteners into U.S. foods and beverages. The Coca-Cola Company has joined forces with Cargill to use its Truvia as a natural sweetener, while PepsiCo has partnered with Whole Earth Sweetener Co. (a subsidiary of Merisant) to use its PureVia brand of Reb-A. Both Cargill and Merisant have notified the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that rebiana should be classified as a generally recognized as safe (GRAS) ingredient, which would open up its use in food and beverages. Response from the FDA is pending. Meanwhile, announced in May 2008 that two independent panels of scientists had awarded the company's SweetLeaf brand stevia self-affirmed GRAS status. The product is now being sold as a tabletop sweetener alongside other sweeteners in the United States, and it is expected to be included in at least one major food or beverage by the end of the year.
Nutrition Business Journal estimates that U.S. sales of stevia (as a dietary supplement) grew 14% to $65 million in 2007. Sales of the herb are expected to skyrocket, however, once it is added to food and beverages and sold as a tabletop sweetener.
If you are an NBJ subscriber and would like to read more of NBJ’s coverage of the stevia sweetener market, click the following:
NBJ’s Raw Material and Ingredient Supply issue, which publishes in December, will include more information on the stevia supply market and interviews with numerous supply industry executives, including ChromaDex’s Frank Jaksch. To order a copy of the issue or to subscribe to NBJ, go to www.nutritionbusinessjournal.com.