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PureCircle develops stevia plant 20 times sweeter than standard plant

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Niamh Michail

By Niamh Michail+

Last updated on 20-Jun-2017 at 17:10 GMT2017-06-20T17:10:33Z

© iStock/sebastianosecondi
© iStock/sebastianosecondi

Using traditional plant breeding techniques, PureCircle has developed a stevia plant with 20 times more sweet-tasting steviol glycosides than standard stevia, it says.

Following on from a successful pilot scheme, the firm has already scaled up cultivation of StarLeaf to commercial scale in the “thousands of hectares”.

The first round of leaf harvesting will begin in August this year, after which food and beverage manufacturers will be able to buy the non-GMO, leaf-extracted sweetener.

Reb D and M are stevia's most sought-after glycosides as they lack the bitterness of the better-known Reb A. But they naturally occur in such low concentrations in the leaf that the cost of commercialising them has been a major drawback in the uptake of the sweetener.

According to PureCircle, StarLeaf's sweeter-than-standard-stevia's taste is down to a combination of steviol molecules which, when combined, outperform Reb M and D.

The sugar-like glycosides [in StarLeaf] include Reb M and Reb D among others,” Faith Son, vice president of global  marketing and innovation at PureCircle, said. “While the sweet tasting molecules like Reb M and Reb D do work well in zero calorie solutions product, it is not just about these glycosides on their own.

“We have found that the combination of glycosides in addition to Reb M and Reb D unlock performance synergies and delivers superior taste performance.”

StarLeaf is the fruit of a $100 million (€89m) investment into PureCircle’s in-house agronomy programme through which the Kuala Lumpur-headquartered company aims to create the world’s largest, non-GMO, natural stevia supply.

"The steviol glycosides in StarLeaf stevia are the most sought because they taste so similar to sugar. We are proud to be the first in the industry to naturally increase the supply of these steviol glycosides in this way," said vice president of agricultural operations James Foxton. 

"We work tirelessly with our customers to achieve deeper sugar reductions to maintain the great taste of their products. StarLeaf stevia will significantly support those efforts," he added.

Aside from natural variability that affects all agricultural crops, the company said StarLeaf has the same general growing requirements as standard stevia.

Want to find out if StarLeaf could improve your product's taste and nutrition profile? Catch up with PureCircle at IFT in Las Vegas from 25 - 28 June.

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