Stevia has generated considerable excitement in the food and drink industry because it offers a natural alternative to artificial zero-calorie sweeteners but the new entrant has its limitations.
Research firm KnowGenix has identified cost as its biggest problem because stevia products are currently more expensive than other high-intensity sweeteners.
GLG Life Tech is tackling this hurdle with a range of cheaper stevia-based sweeteners.
Due to be available for customer sampling in March, the products in the Sweet Success line all have a total steviol glycosides reading of 97 per cent or greater.
This is in line with the standards established by the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA). But the GLG is still awaiting a GRAS (generally recognized as safe) no-objection letter from the FDA. This process typically takes 180 days.
The FDA has already issued letters of no objection to GRAS status for stevia-based Reb A at 95 percent purity. Reb A is a steviol glycoside derived from the stevia leaf that is said to be 200 times sweeter than sugar.
Since this regulatory approval was sealed a spate of big Reb A sweetened launches have come from the likes of PepsiCo and Coca-Cola.
GLG itself supplies Cargill with its own stevia extract for the Truvia Reb A sweetener brand that has been used by Coca-Cola in Sprite, Odwalla, and Vitaminwater. This relationship was the source of 77 per cent of the $28.6m in sales revenue that GLG earned in the first nine months of 2009.
As for the new Sweetness Success range the company has not specified which steviol glycosides are present. But GLG business development manager Angela Palmieri said: "GLG’s technical team has combined certain extracts within the leaf to meet the sucrose-like taste profile companies are seeking.
"The key here is GLG’s technology and extraction capabilities which allow us to understand the stevia leaf and to create combinations and flavor profiles that work."
As for the target market of the new stevia sweeteners, GLG is hoping to broaden the potential client base thanks to its lower prices. Although pricing information has not yet been released, GLG claims the Sweet Success range offers considerable savings when compared to RebA market pricing.
Palmieri said: “Beverage companies would be our primary target and of course food applications as well. But we really see potential for mainstream beverages and for stevia to truly become the sweetening system of choice."
The Sweet Success line is expected to become available in the second quarter while customer sampling for trial testing will be available from March.