S&W Seed Co. (Nasdaq: SANW) announced it has filed a patent application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for stevia plant variety "SW107." Variety SW107 exhibits increased concentrations of Reb-A sweetener, higher leaf mass production and an improved taste profile that has little or no aftertaste. SW107 has been bred to address commercial processing markets in North America, South America, and other regions of the world that have climates suitable for it.
Companies producing consumer food products, as well as ingredient manufacturers, recognize the value of stevia as an all-natural sweetener in beverage, dairy, baking and snack products. Stevia's health benefits include zero calories and minimal glycemic impact and stability when heated. Since the primary sweetener used in stevia-based products, Reb A, comes 100 percent from agricultural sources, the Company believes that improved stevia varieties, like SW107, with increased yield and Reb A content will be very desirable commercially.
The Company believes SW107 is well qualified to be successful in the commercial market. SW107 has a number of differentiating factors, including enhanced leaf yield, Reb-A output, and taste profile, as well as plant vigor that includes superior overwintering and later flowering attributes compared with the majority of the plant population from which the line was derived. In field trials throughout the western United States, SW107 yielded approximately 40 percent more leaf, 60 percent more Reb-A content, and more than a 100 percent increase in the Reb-A to stevioside ratio, as compared to test samples from stevia varieties now in mainstream production. S&W believes these results, coupled with an improved aftertaste profile, mean that SW107 will be economically attractive to stevia farmers and to the commercial volume stevia processing community. With the filing of this patent application, the Company will begin seeking agreements with consumer products companies, ingredient manufacturers and stevia mass processors.
Mark Grewal, chief executive officer of S&W Seed Co., commented, "This patent application marks a significant milestone in our stevia development program. With the huge growth in demand for stevia in the last five years since we entered the industry, food manufacturers and processors have expressed a desire for reliable sources of stevia leaf production outside of China. Due to the higher leaf mass of SW107, which adds to yield, the high Reb-A percentage, and its improved taste and plant vigor characteristics, we believe SW107 addresses many of the economic challenges that farmers and producers in North and South America have faced to date."
Variety SW107 was classically bred from germplasm that is proprietary to S&W's stevia program that first commenced in 2009 under the direction of Dr. Clint Shock, who is an internationally recognized expert on stevia. S&W's stevia research and development team has crossed hundreds of lines of stevia plants, many of which were collected over many years, with a goal of developing stevia varieties that have unique properties for commercialization. The Company is optimistic that SW107 will be followed by other promising varieties. S&W's research and development team hopes to develop other new varieties that have distinctly different sets of plant attributes and can address other market needs. SW107 initially is targeted at North and South America, where stevia plant production has been somewhat limited.
To date, stevia production and extraction has largely been based in China and, to a lesser extent, South America. SW107 initially is targeted to be produced in North America and South America, where there have been insignificant commercial quantities grown due to farming economics. S&W believes SW107 will facilitate the growth of stevia in mass commercial quantities in these regions due to its high plant productivity (yield) and enhanced levels of Reb-A to extract.