Merisant Worldwide Co.—the maker of PureVia, the stevia-derived sweetener used by beverage giant PepsiCo—filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on January 9, according to the Associated Press. The company, which also makes the artificial sweetener Equal, entered bankruptcy protection with assets of $331.1 million and total debt of $560.7 million, the AP reported. Merisant’s Whole Earth Sweetener Co. is the maker of PureVia.
The company’s bankruptcy move is the latest development in the race to launch a tabletop sweetener made with with the stevia strain called Rebaudioside A (Reb A) and develop Reb-A-sweetened beverages and foods in the United States.
Cargill has been particularly aggressive in getting its Truvia brand stevia sweetener on the U.S. market. Both Cargill and Merisant notified the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2008 that Reb-A should be generally recognized as safe (GRAS certified)—and late last year the agency gave the herbal sweetener its formal nod of approval for inclusion in foods and beverages. Merisant waited for FDA sign off before launching its stevia offerings, but Cargill and its beverage partner The Coca-Cola Co. did not. Cargill rolled out a Truvia tabletop sweetener last fall and launched a national ad campaign for the product in December.
Also in December, Coke announced it was launching three flavors of an Odwalla juice sweetened with Cargill’s Truvia. Coke also just unveiled a Reb-A sweetened version of its Sprite carbonated soda. Meanwhile, Pepsi began rolling out a PureVia-sweetened version of its SoBe LifeWater in December, after receiving approval from the FDA. It will launch early this year a low-calorie, stevia-sweetened orange juice called Trop 50. PepsiCo told the Atlanta Journal Constitution on January 9 that Merisant’s bankruptcy will not hamper the launch of its stevia drinks.
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