Sugar never had it so good. PureCircle Ltd. and Imperial Sugar Company announced the launch of a new venture that could take the mystery out of stevia for product formulators. Natural Sweet Ventures LLC ("Natural Sweet") is a joint venture between the two sweetener companies with the goal of combining the age-old preferred flavour of sugar with the hot no-calorie sweetener on the block, stevia.
The new venture will allow creative solutions for food and beverage product formulators with applications that are familiar (liquids, crystals, sprays) that are easy to adopt (pH stable) and will address consumer demand for natural, lower-glycaemic and non-genetically modified sweetener ingredients.
It's all about customer needs. "The venture is about anticipating customer needs before they've expressed them," said Jason Hecker, director of marketing for Pure Circle. "By bringing these two ingredients together, we've created a smooth seamless application to help customers with turnkey solutions," he said.
"For formulators who are familiar with working with sugar, this will be a boon. Pure Circle's choice of pairing with sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup—which is more commonly used in beverage manufacture—may, however, be a sign of the future when HFCS will be replaced by sugar," said Kantha Shelke, FI Editor at Large and principle at CorvusBlue.
This turnkey manufacturing solution may in turn help improve consumer perception of stevia and reduce parental guilt about sugar. In a PureCircle survey of 1500 mothers, conducted by Launch Force, 85 per cent of moms said they are at least somewhat concerned about the level of sugar in their families' diets, and an equal percentage are concerned about non-natural alternative sweetners.
"Natural Sweet is a major opportunity for the U.S. consumer in their quest for quality, natural beverage and food alternatives that combine great taste with controlled calories," said Magomet Malsagov, CEO & president of PureCircle Limited. "When we were looking for a partner for the important North American market, there was really only one choice. Imperial stood out above the crowd for its commitment to innovation, naturally sweet products and outstanding customer service. We are pleased with the combined potential of our technologies. Our products will deliver natural sweetness with exciting beneficial attributes."
When will products sweetened with Natural Sweet show up on store shelves? Soon was all Hecker could say. And what about the omnipresent issue of taste? Hecker says they have it covered. He said the technology surrounding the Imperial/PureCircle products "allows for uniform dispersion of stevia and more of the sugar taste to come out."
Natural Sweet Ventures products will include the following.
- Liquid form — for the beverage industry as a liquid sweetener option
- Crystallized form — for syrup, spray-on, dairy, and many baking and confection applications
- Variety of calorie reduction levels — allowing formulation to specific calorie levels that best suit the application
- A sugar option with the added benefits of a lower glycaemic index, no GMO (genetically modified organism), temperature and pH stable, and uniform dispersion of both sugar and stevia
"We are delighted to partner with PureCircle to develop a specialty product line for customers seeking lower calorie, natural sweetening solutions," said John C. Sheptor, president and CEO of Imperial Sugar. "Natural Sweet is a complement to Imperial's core sugar business and consistent with our strategy to expand value-added natural offerings. This exclusive partnership gives Natural Sweet a technological advantage as we collaborate with customers to deliver products that meet their distinct needs."
The Natural Sweet product line will directly aid manufacturers responding to strong consumer interest in natural reduced calorie products and the recent announcements by the beverage industry of more stringent labeling.
All Natural Sweet Ventures products will carry the endorsements of Imperial Sugar Company and PureCircle.