Codex approves global framework for stevia production

21 Jan 2022

Codex Alimentarius has adopted a Framework for Steviol Glycosides approving four different technologies for the production of the sweetener, a move that stakeholders say will ‘benefit the entire stevia industry’.

The Framework for Steviol Glycosides now approves four production technologies for steviol glycosides that are made via extraction, bioconversion, fermentation and glycolysation.

Codex approves global framework for stevia production
The adopted framework will benefit the entire stevia industry, says ISC.

While manufacturers using extracted stevia can leverage a more natural positioning, the best-tasting molecules, such as rebaudioside M, exist in tiny quantities in the stevia leaf, while other rebaudioside molecules have unpleasant aftertaste. These cost and taste issues have held back uptake of stevia and led to significant R&D efforts in recent years to develop alternative methods for producing so-called ‘next generation’ steviol glycosides.

Producing stevia via fermentation, for instance, allow suppliers to select and produce large quantities of only the best-tasting rebaudioside molecules. This means they can produce at scale stevia molecules that have a reduced bitterness and liquorice aftertaste and have a taste profile similar to that of sugar.

Similarly, producing stevia via bioconversion (also known as enzymatic conversion) involves using genetically modified yeast to scale up the best-tasting rebaudioside molecules found in the stevia leaf although the GM yeast is not present in the final ingredient. Last year, the European Commission approved use of the enzymatically converted stevia molecule, Reb M, for the EU.

The adoption of the Codex framework was welcomed by Washington, DC-headquartered trade association, the International Stevia Council (ISC), which said it would open more markets for the use of stevia.

Maria Teresa Scardigli, executive director of the ISC, said the Council was “instrumental” in getting this new Codex framework approved.

“The Framework approach ensures that business operators can put steviol glycosides produced through their various technologies on the market without submitting new dossiers, provided they fulfill the defined criteria and specifications per technology,” she said. “This is based on the authorities’ review of the production technology, ensuring the highest level of safety, purity and quality is achieved for the final steviol glycoside ingredient put on the market.”

Product launch activity

According to figures from Innova Market Insights, global product launches using stevia have increased by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21.9% over the past 10 years for the 2011 to 2021 period, with the majority of product launches occurring in North America, Asia and Western Europe.

Data from Innova shows that global product launches with stevia have increased by 21.9% CAGR over the past 10 years (2011-2021), the majority of product launches have taken place in North America, Asia and Western Europe.

Mintel data shows that almost 80% of food, drink and supplement launches in the five years previous to October 2021 that contain Reb M are in the US, followed by approximately 10% in Puerto Rico. Major brands such as Chobani and Halo Top use Reb M in their products.

Product launch activity in other regions, such as Eastern Europe, Australasia, Africa and the Middle East, is increasing at an even faster rate – more than 35% - for the same period, according to figures cited by the ISC.

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