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Dispatches from IFT

Niutang nears launch for new stevia sweetener

By Jess Halliday in Anaheim , 11-Jun-2009

Niutang is preparing to introduce its Reb A sweetener from stevia next year and is starting discussions with existing customers and new ones that have a parallel product development timeline.

Although not yet ready for the formal launch, Nancy Hughes, VP sales and marketing told FoodNavigator.com at IFT this week that the company is committed to its newest sweetener and is in late-stage R&D.

“We intend to be in the market in 2010,” she said, but added that R&D and patent work needs to be completed, and all aspects of the business investment addressed.

“We do things slowly and are a long term stable company. When we enter a category, we do so at a time best suited to our long-term business strategy.”

The company has a 40 year history and has been a global supplier of aspartame, sucralose and folic acid since 1994.

It has been working on Reb A for about three years, and has achieved 97 per cent purity. “We will achieve higher,” Hughes said.

The company is also working on the flavour internally, as Reb A can have some aftertaste issues.

Niutang has received a lot of publicity recently because of its involvement in a sucralose patent dispute with Tate & Lyle. The International Trade Commission declared in April that Niutang, and several other sucralose players, are not breaching the former monopoly-holder’s patents, and Tate & Lyle does not plan to appeal.

While Niutang did not decide to branch out into Reb A as a result of the sucralose question, Hughes said it did allow it to spend more time on the new product.

Quality focus

Niutang manufactures its ingredients in China, but it has as US-based technical support team that allows it to “address the largest market for high intensity sweeteners immediately,” Hughes said.

She emphasised that the company is based on quality service and integrity. “We won’t ship if we don’t have good quality.”

However some of the new sucralose players entering the market do cause concern, in case they do not adhere to the same standards and their lack of responsibility casts a cloud over other suppliers.

Regulatory

In Europe, the European Food Safety Authority has yet to give its opinion on the safety of steviol glycosides, including Reb A.

However France is stealing a march in the market as its food safety agency has declared high purity Reb A safe and ministerial sign-off is expected shortly. This would give it a two year window for manufacturers to use the sweetener in anticipation of full European approval.

Other member states may follow suit and opt for early approval.

In the US, Reb A was declared generally recognised as safe (GRAS) for use in foods and beverages in December 2008. It was previously been permitted for use in dietary supplements there.

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