Stevia First Corp. (otcqb:STVF), an early-stage agribusiness based in California's Central Valley growing region and focused on the industrial scale production of stevia, the all-natural zero-calorie sweetener that is rapidly transforming the food and beverage industry, is pleased to advise that it has recently identified a novel plant variant through its stevia field trials. The new plant is expected to be useful for discovery and production of rare, next-generation stevia sweeteners, and also for further characterization of key stevia enzymes.
In 2013, the Company screened a total of more than 50,000 stevia plants seeking to identify variants that would be valuable for commercial production of stevia sweeteners. Among these plants, Stevia First was able to identify a single plant that contained a natural gene mutation in an important region of a known stevia enzyme, thereby producing a very unique flavor profile.
As a result of this work, the Company is now growing stevia plants that could be useful in a breeding program for the production of rare next-generation stevia sweeteners. Certain forms of stevia found within the leaf taste superior to Reb A, the dominant form of stevia used commonly in retail products today. However, these desirable stevia sweeteners are typically found at low concentrations within the stevia leaf which makes them difficult and expensive to supply at commercial scale using traditional extraction methods.
Stevia First is developing technologies for the production of stevia using fermentation in conjunction with traditional agricultural production. Fermentation-based stevia production methods may bypass or greatly diminish the need for stevia leaf production, which by some estimates accounts for 70% or more of the total costs of traditional stevia extract production.
Company CEO Robert Brooke stated, "This discovery demonstrates the value of our plant sciences efforts and provides us with tools and insights that are uncommon within the stevia industry. In particular, the findings could enable novel breeding work directed towards the discovery and industrial production of rare and desirable stevia sweeteners."