Steviana was founded by Dr. Jian Liu in 2014 with the help of $15m investment from a Chinese investor. Dr. Liu has a background in developing high purity extraction technology for natural pharmaceuticals.
Steviana currently produces a variety of stevia extracts, including Reb A, Reb C, Reb D, and the newest US patent for the co-process of Reb AD, at its Suzhou facility, located 30 minutes outside of Shanghai.
“Reb D is the most sugar-like stevia extract component of the stevia leaf… but in a normal [stevia] leaf, there’s very little Reb D, so it’s hard to commercialize it,” said Steviana’s business consultant, Scott Chaplin.
Dr. Liu said the co-process patent for Reb AD yields a balanced ratio of Reb A and Reb D without a bitter aftertaste, and it can be used in chocolate, candy and other food applications.
Reb AD is also more affordable for food manufacturers, since most producers have to develop their sweeteners through a blending process to achieve the similar sweet effect, Chaplin added.
“Others can offer potential blends of Reb A and D, but these are not as technically viable or a good value offering to customers,” he said. “With the Steviana patented co-process of Reb AD, we are able to extract together and then crystalize in one manufacturing process.”
Steviana was approached by several US chocolate confectionery companies during IFT in Las Vegas recently, and it hopes to achieve a $15m-to-$20m sales target in 2018.
Stevia market in China
Dr. Liu said the stevia market in China is growing, but most Chinese consumers are not used to stevia-added products because they are more expensive than sugar and other artificial sweeteners.
A recent global market study on stevia by Persistence Market Research predicts China will continue to be the largest exporter of stevia worldwide up to 2020.