Ingredion and Amyris partner up on a fermented Reb M sweetener

19 May 2021

Ingredion and Amyris struck a $100 million deal that makes Ingredion the exclusive global licensing partner for Amyris’ Rebaudioside M stevia sweetener, according to a press release. The price tag includes $75 million for the exclusive license to sell and market Reb M from fermentation.

In addition to commercializing the synthetic sweetener alternative, the agreement gives Ingredion a minority ownership stake in the Amyris Brazilian manufacturing facility. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter of this year.

Ingredion and Amyris partner up on a fermented Reb M sweetener

Beyond partnering to produce products that currently exist, the two ingredients manufacturers will also enter into an R&D collaboration agreement to create and advance the development of sustainably sourced, zero-calorie, nature-based sweeteners. According to the release, the agreement between the two companies will also allow them to focus on other types of fermentation-based food ingredients.

As consumers continue to look to reduce their sugar intake, Ingredion has been investing heavily in stevia, and it has even stated that sugar reduction is one of its core growth areas, so it's no surprise that the company is looking to stevia to build its sweetener alternative portfolio.

In 2019, Ingredion's annual report showed that sugar reduction made up 36% of the company's net sales. But to continue growing that proportion, the company took a 75% majority stake in PureCircle last year, which also has a Reb M glycoside. In a statement, Ingredion’s CEO Jim Zallie noted that this latest deal with Amyris complements the portfolio that the company gained through PureCircle. “Our partnership with Amyris positions Ingredion well to meet our customers’ increasing demand for quality ingredients that will drive transformational change in the food industry,” he said.

Mintel research from 2018 showed 87% of shoppers are limiting the amount of sugar in their diet. That same year, product launches using stevia as a sweetener increased 31% over 2017. Since then, the popularity of stevia has held strong. Mordor Intelligence expects the stevia market to grow 8.43% from 2021 to 2026 with North America being the fastest-growing market.

However, stevia as a sweetener has been dogged by its reputation as an alternative with a bad aftertaste. Reb M is one extraction from the stevia plant that minimizes that trait. By partnering with Amyris, Ingredion is increasing the number of alternatives using the desirable Reb M that it has access to. What makes this particular choice different from the Reb M that it already has in its portfolio is the method with which it is produced.

Amyris uses fermentation – an increasingly popular method in ingredients manufacturing – to produce its stevia. Using yeast and non-GMO sugar cane, the company converts the sugar into the correct stevia molecule in a process that the company says is cheaper than extraction.

This new collaboration pairs Amyris’ deep knowledge of R&D and science with Ingredion’s global reach and well-known brand. As such, it allows each to tap the expertise of the other, which may, in time, lead to further collaborations and perhaps even an acquisition.

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