The Reb M sweetener derived from the stevia leaf has been approved for use as a tabletop sweetener and added it to food and beverage categories already approved by Codex for Steviol glycosides.
California-based SweeGen is already present in several Latin American countries, after having secured regulatory approvals in Ecuador (Reb M in January 2017, Reb D in Oct 2017), Mexico (Reb M in Oct 2017 and Reb D in April 2018), and Peru (Reb D and M in March 2018).
Katharina Pueller, SweeGen natural sweeteners director, told FoodNavigator-LATAM that table top and beverages such as flavored waters, juices, and carbonated soft drinks are the big drivers in Latin America, but the company is also seeing significant interest in reduced-sugar dairy and bakery applications.
“Similar to other regions around the globe, the consumer awareness of stevia in LATAM has increased dramatically over the past several years, but there is still a lot of work to be done to educate consumers – specifically as it relates to the clean taste of next-generation stevia sweeteners,” she added.
The regulatory approval in Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, and Peru is just the start. “LATAM is a very important market for us and our distribution partner Ingredion,” said Pueller. “We are diligently working through the regulatory approval processes to reach additional markets in the next months and years.”
Ingredion is SweeGen's exclusive global distributor in all markets (excluding SweeGen's house accounts and in the People's Republic of China where it is a non-exclusive distributor).
“Now beverage and food manufacturers in Colombia can reduce sugar using our Reb M sweetener derived from the stevia leaf,” said Kurt Callaghan, marketing manager, sweetness innovation, Ingredion. “We are excited to commercialize Reb M in Colombia, and SweeGen and Ingredion will continue our joint efforts to gain regulatory approvals in other regions.”
SweeGen uses enzymes to convert stevia leaf extracts to the best-tasting steviol glycosides (Reb-D and Reb M). The enzymes are genetically modified but the US-based Non GMO Project concluded that the end product does not contain any yeast and could therefore be approved as non-GMO verified.
“Consumer demand for zero- and reduced sugar products is on the rise globally, and our non-GMO Reb M stevia leaf sweetener provides a solution that helps reduce sugar without sacrificing taste,” said Pueller.
According to LMC International, Mexico's current stevia market is approximately 300MT/year and South America's current stevia market is approximately 700MT/year, explained Pueller.
“Reb M is a new to the world product, therefore there is no market data available on Reb M in LATAM yet, the potential however to replace artificial high intensity sweeteners and sugar is significant,” said Pueller.