Stevia First files processing IP

27 Jul 2015

Stevia First has filed new intellectual property covering a combined processing method for sugarcane and stevia leaf. The company previously announced in March 2013 a technology collaboration and sales effort targeting expansion into Mexico and Latin American markets. That initiative has now resulted in new intellectual property filed by the company and co-developed by the […]

Stevia First files processing IP

stevia-leaves-flower-over-white-background-50563476Stevia First has filed new intellectual property covering a combined processing method for sugarcane and stevia leaf.

The company previously announced in March 2013 a technology collaboration and sales effort targeting expansion into Mexico and Latin American markets. That initiative has now resulted in new intellectual property filed by the company and co-developed by the company’s CEO, Robert Brooke, and Fernando Orozco Rodriguez, a veteran process engineer who worked in Coca-Cola’s Mexican supply chain for more than 20 years. Sr. Rodriguez’s responsibilities during this time included engineering efforts essential to the installation of sugar processing facilities that total more than 300 thousand tons of annual production.

Production of stevia today is focused almost entirely in China and Southeast Asia, Stevia First notes, using relatively antiquated methods of agricultural production and leaf processing, and this is true despite significant interest from farm operators from every corner of the globe to modernise leaf production. A significant reason for this, says the company, is that, until now, the process of steviol glycoside extraction and purification has been considered capital-intensive and specialised, making investment in new processing facilities around the world difficult.

What Stevia First describes as key intellectual property has been filed for these new techniques which incorporate a method for co-processing sugarcane and stevia leaf extract, and could enable drastic reductions in the amount of capital equipment investment required for traditional stevia leaf processing. Now, it says, instead of producing all leaf in Asia, stevia leaf can be cost-effectively grown and processed anywhere around the globe where sugar is currently grown, making stevia an increasingly straightforward and reliable replacement to sugar.

With a backlash against sugary beverages, sugar mills are trying to evolve. Sugar taxes have closed operations and forced many customers to replace sugarcane with less expensive and even more highly processed items like high-fructose corn syrup (“HFCS”). The sugar industry is facing many competitive pressures, but still retain many uses for their products, and ultimately can realize a more natural product in cane sugar that consumers strongly prefer compared to HFCS. This newly announced technology enables production of stevia-sugar syrups that may reduce calories by as much as 80%, and ultimately give the sugar producers a healthier advantage compared to HFCS. An additional benefit of the new process comes as a result of equipment standardization within the sugar processing industry. The newly announced methodology can also be used for sugar processing alone, making this evolution an incredibly low-risk phased investment for the sugar industry.

“This technology is yet another example of how our modest R&D organization is setting the stage for a large global increase in stevia consumption, and how we are working to give the beverage and sugar industries the tools they need for evolution and change,” said Robert Brooke, CEO of Stevia First. “In concert with our other offerings, we now have a very clear path to enable beverage companies, their bottlers, and their sugar industry partners to rapidly increase global stevia output to meet their mandates for calorie reduction, and to simultaneously diversify their leaf supply in order to ensure there is low-cost and reliable product supply for decades to come.”

Stevia First Corp. will introduce the technology to the Brazilian market as well, which is the largest producer of sugarcane in the world, and responsible for approximately 50% of the world’s exports of sugarcane.

“Brazil can add a huge new capability in the sugar substitute market,” said Julio Ferreira, the director of Brazil Business Connect, a green technology advisory consulting firm, who will work in concert with Stevia First to introduce the company and technology, “given the attractiveness of health and wellness in the region, and a specialized team focused on diabetes and obesity is in high demand.”

“It is with great excitement that we announce this technology, and begin to commercialise it through strategic partnerships,” said Fernando Orozco Rodriguez, Director of Stevia First in Mexico and Latin America, and a co-inventor of the liquid stevia and sugar processing technology. “The sugar processing industry has many commercial strengths and their evolution with stevia is a very positive one. The ability to produce stevia leaf anywhere, in any country, is an important one, and can be viewed as a fundamental event akin to the initial global expansion of sugarcane itself.”