Cheaper stevioside-based sweeteners are on the horizon following the acquisition of San Francisco-based ingredients research firm Abunda by Swiss biotech company Evolva.
Evolva and Abunda have been working together on developing the fermentation of stevia from yeast – a process Evolva said "bypasses the complex logistics associated with the traditional cultivation, processing and refining of stevia plants."
Now Evolva has taken full ownership of Abunda, it intends to move forward with commercialization of steviosides produced by fermentation in a bid to grab a chunk of the $70 billion a year global market for sweeteners at a time when consumers are demanding healthier, but more natural, alternatives to sugar.
Jutta Heim, chief scientific officer of Evolva, said: "We have collaborated very successfully with Abunda over the last two years in applying Evolva’s technologies to the production of stevia ingredients by fermentation. Our teams know and work with each other very well, so we anticipate a straightforward and seamless integration with even greater success in the future.
"Over the next 12 to 18 months, our task on stevia is to further improve the yield and transfer to the scale-up phase."
Stuart Strathdee, Abunda board member, added: "Stevia has already captured the imagination of the world’s leading food and beverage companies. The availability of pure, fermentation-derived stevia components and the ability to customize their blending should represent a leap forward in terms of the sweetener’s taste and economic attractiveness."