PureCircle launches stevia leaf sweetener and opens innovation center in Brazil

By Natasha Spencer

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / joloei
© Getty Images / joloei

Related tags: Stevia

As the stevia sweetener producer works towards the commercialization of stevia-based protein and fiber ingredients in 2020, we caught up with Alina Slotnik, Vice President of Global Marketing at PureCircle to find out more about its latest developments.

As consumers increasingly opt for zero-added sugar and reduced-sugar products, PureCircle is upping its efforts in the segment with a new stevia ingredient for food and beverage manufacturers, along with opening its latest innovation center in Brazil.

New stevia leaf product

In a bid to “overcome solubility challenges”​, the stevia leaf sweetener innovator has created Sigma Syrup, a new variety, which is a blend of its proprietary Reb M and other stevia leaf ingredients.

Hailed as the ‘next-generation’ in sugar alternatives and prioritizing taste, PureCircle reveals that its GMO-free Sigma Syrup aims to avoid common issues relating to solubility such as the high “sweetness intensity”​ that is often associated with syrups and liquid tabletop sweeteners.

Specializing in flavor and ingredient innovation, PureCircle has also launched a new proprietary range of stevia plants. The new line of stevia plants strives to answer consumers’ calls for accessible, affordable and healthy options, as well as appealing to food and beverage production efficiency needs.

“Stevia ingredients are unique because they are proven to be very low on the glycemic index, and are safe for diabetic and other sugar-sensitive audiences,”​ said Slotnik.

Research has shown that the molecules of the stevia leaf are present and unchanged in the dried stevia leaf, through the commercial extraction and purification process, and in the final stevia leaf extract product,”​ explained PureCircle.

Innovation in Brazil

To support its customer service operations throughout Latin America, PureCircle is also opening a new office and innovation lab in Brazil. Located in Sao Paulo, the facility will offer formulation support.

Designed to increase speed-to-market times, the new office will provide stevia formulation insights and updates that focus specifically on South America. Demands for zero-added sugar and reduced sugar products with an appealing taste that are naturally sweetened are popular among consumers, influencing new food and beverage product launches.

Opening its new innovation center in Brazil, Slotnik reveals that the choice was down to its proximity to global trends: “Around the world, consumers have different tastes and preferences, and having a significant presence in Brazil will enable us to be closer to that market, to better understand it and therefore to better help our customers there.”

The new Brazilian innovation center will see research and development take place on the company’s next-generation stevia leaf ingredients including Reb M, flavors and antioxidants.

Describing these ingredients as having a “cleaner, well-rounded taste profile”​, beverage, dairy, sports nutrition and bakery will be some of PureCircle’s key areas of initial focus.

Stevia leaf potential in food and beverages

As it gears up to commercialize stevia-based protein and fiber ingredients in 2020, PureCircle continues to invest in extraction and sales of stevia leaf ingredients, including flavor modifiers and antioxidants for functional product use.

Commenting on what innovation looks like in Brazil and the wider Latin American region today, Slotnik explained: “Sugar reduction and a shift towards more health and wellness-oriented food and beverage products are powering innovation.”

Latin America is the largest carbonated soft drink market around the world and Brazil is one of the top five global markets in total carbonated soft drink volume, Slotnik relayed.

As such, the region is “an important market for natural, non-GMO, plant-based ingredients like stevia leaf sweeteners”​, added Slotnik.

Several consumer demands and market trends are driving the need to replace traditional sugars with sugar-free alternatives in Latin America. Together, consumers, health experts and governments globally and “certainly in Latin America”​ have become “more health-conscious and more concerned about obesity and diabetes”​, Slotnik voiced.

Subsequently, these concerns have led to “increased interest in, and demand for, zero- and low-sugar added foods and beverages made with natural ingredients”​, Slotnik revealed.​ As a result, “food and beverage companies have an increasing need to produce and sell more of those products”.

Stevia leaf future formulations

Applying its agricultural programs to farms in Latin America and internationally, PureCircle is working with farmers to encourage the growth and sourcing of stevia plants.

Pairing its efforts in the agriculture community with food and beverage companies, PureCircle is also looking to improve its low- and no-calorie formulations using a plant-based sweetener.

Moving into 2020, “we are continuing to look for new ingredients within the stevia leaf”,​ Slotnik confirmed. After commercializing an antioxidant in the stevia leaf in 2019, PureCircle will now turn its attention to its 2020 plans to “commercialize additional functional ingredients”​. 

“We have identified both fiber and protein from the stevia leaf which will expand our growing portfolio of sweeteners, flavors and antioxidants which are all non-GMO,​” concluded Slotnik.

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