India is the regional base for the firm but it also sees opportunities in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan.
“We are receiving increasing requests from food and beverage companies in India to help them formulate stevia ingredients for their specific needs,” said Ajay Chandran, senior director and head of South Asia at PureCircle.
“These markets are heading into an exciting phase that will allow companies to innovate to bring new SKUs and new ideas into market without infrastructural constraints that had stopped them in the past; whether cold chain, storage or supply capabilities, or (lack of) modern stores,” said Ajay.
He said major MNCs and brands in Asia-Pacific have been increasingly keen to reformulate with stevia.
Major global sugar reductions mean opportunities
Ajay cited Coca-Cola and Pepsi undertaking major sugar reductions across several brands and categories in the US, Europe, Latin America, Australia and Asia, as well as 7-Up and Fanta in South Asia. In China, key brands also looked at stevia and having reduced sugar. Some of these have been PureCircle’s clients, but he declined to reveal more.
“The market is expanding across the board. Being here allows us to tap into major opportunities that exist. For us, it’s very exciting market to be in,” he said.
“We are set up to support the South Asian food and beverage industry’s requirements to get to market quickly. Whether it is regulatory, marketing or application expertise, we have all the capabilities to help customers quickly move a great tasting product to market.”
PureCircle's 'complete dedication to stevia'
PureCircle’s first South Asia lab and hub office in Gurgaon, India is part of this strategy and is equipped to provide marketing, regulatory, application and procurement support.
Ajay said PureCircle has the “complete dedication to stevia” from seeds to leaves, and from farm to gate.
“We have so many varieties that give us a leg up in terms of innovation at the beginning stage. Without a great-tasting leaf, you don’t have the capability to extract the best-tasting molecules,” he said.
According to him, PureCircle also has the world’s largest extraction plant in China and the world’s largest, and fully-automated, purification plant in Malaysia. The latter was recently commission for a $42m expansion.
He added, “We now have application labs in all major continents very close to customers, including in Malaysia, India and China. Each of these have the capability to help our customers to go from concept to launch very quickly. We can add value like no other company can.”
Earlier in November, PureCircle introduced its new Sigma range at Food Ingredients India for dairy, beverages, and confectionery and bakery products.
Ajay said he expected to see high sales growth from non-beverage categories over the coming years.
“For us, we expect high double-digit growth for the next few years. We are very hopeful, with the rising amount of product development and application support requested from our customers of us, that we’ll be able to continue growing the South Asia business significantly,” he said.
PureCircle stated that the company has had a CAGR of 20% over the past five years.
For the future, he said their proprietary StarLeaf — with novel and “best tasting glycosides”, and present up to 20 times more — is going to be scaled-up, resulting in great-tasting products that bring naturally-sweetened, zero added sugar solutions to customers across all the major product categories.
“That is going to be the game changer in great-tasting stevia-sweetened products. It’s something to watch out for, and we’re really optimistic about it,” he said.