Cargill and Evolva Holding SA have been working on a joint development programme to develop and produce minor steviol glycosides - the compounds responsible for the sweet taste in the stevia leaf – via fermentation technologies since March last year.
Since then the two firms have been working together to develop the new technology and set up a timetable for the scale-up and eventual production of steviol glycosides produced by fermentation. Indeed, the companies announced that their programme was moving into pilot-scale ahead of schedule in late 2013, and news of further a further ‘technical milestone’ was released in early 2014.
Now Evolva and Cargill have set out their application for a patent on a process to ‘efficiently and sustainably produce next-generation sweeteners via fermentation’. The patent application (WO2014122227) was originally filed in February 2013.
Fermentation process to improve flavour
The ability to produce a Reb M sweetener via fermentation opens up the potential to significantly improve the flavour profile of such zero-calorie sweeteners, especially at higher usage levels, said Evolva and Cargill in a press release.
The firms noted that the best tasting and sweetest parts of the stevia leaf - such as Reb M - make up less than 1% of the leaf. By producing Reb M using fermentation, the companies are able to produce the desired sweetness at a scale and cost that is not feasible through extraction of Reb M from the stevia leaf.
“This breakthrough will allow consumers all over the world to enjoy products using Reb M at a commercially viable price,” said Neil Goldsmith, CEO of Evolva. “This patent application forms part of our ever-expanding IP portfolio on steviol glycosides, which we are confident is the most extensive, and the most commercially significant in this space.”