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Cargill-DSM joint venture starts commercial-scale production of EverSweet
Avansya, the joint venture (JV) between Cargill and DSM, has started production at the first commercial-scale fermentation facility for EverSweet stevia sweeteners in the US. This comes as sugar reduction remains a key theme in food and beverage formulation, global consumers increasing demand healthier alternatives and manufacturers avoiding sugar taxes. Andy Ohmes, from Cargill, tells FoodIngredientsFirst that “some of the first commercial products made using EverSweet are already on the shelves in the US and that by the new year, there will be more of the EverSweet sweetened products on the market across various categories.”
Cargill and DSM announced their intention to establish this JV in November 2018, subject to regulatory approvals.
“This is the most significant investment in the commercial production of steviol glycosides produced by fermentation in North America,” says Ohmes, US Cargill Global High-Intensity Sweetener Product Line Lead and Avansya Vice President of Sales & Marketing.
The announcement is a “key milestone in the growth of Avansya,” bringing solutions to its customers, which can help reduce sugar and calories, two of the most prominent themes we see within the stevia industry, he notes.
“This demand is driven by several things, including obesity and sugar taxes,” Ohmes continues. “There is already a demand for these types of products, which can deliver a great taste and can meet the needs of what our customers are asking for.”
Cargill has been in the stevia business for over twelve years, and through that experience has found that there are more than 70 components of steviol glycosides in the stevia leaf.
Ohmes says the company did recognize that there were better tasting molecules in the stevia leaf, and also that they were not available at a high enough level that would service a market at a commercial scale and with an acceptable price. “Also, from a sustainability point, these molecules occur in nature and are exactly the same as those which occur in the leaf itself,” he adds.
According to Ohmes, the beverage category has always been the most significant category for high potency sweeteners. “We see a lot of new products driven by the labeling law changes in the US, involving confectionery, dairy, bakery and even in indulgent categories where you have never really heard about sugar reduction in the past. Consumers still want to indulge, but they may not want as many calories or sugar as previous,” he continues. “So we see opportunities across the board and EverSweet can fill these gaps.”
“We are not the only player in the market serving these demands, but to replace sugar with high-intensity sweeteners, you need quite a bit of sophistication and know-how on the formulation,” Oscar Goddijn, Avansya CEO tells FoodIngredientsFirst. “That is where both Cargill and DSM bring significant expertise with this JV especially in regards to our historical and application expertise.”
“With an industrial-scale process like fermentation, you can end up with a fantastic tasting product. Many experts are positively and pleasantly surprised by how clean tasting EverSweet is,” he notes. “This allows our customers to keep their taste profiles very simple and straightforward. EverSweet has a sugar like taste profile overall, customers are very pleased with the taste.”
EverSweet is Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) and the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association of the US (FEMA) GRAS approved for use in food and beverage products in the US and Mexico and additional regulatory approvals for use in other countries are underway.
EverSweet’s clean taste profile is well-suited for use in products such as yogurt, chocolate milk, soft drinks, ice cream, cereal bars and confections. Avansya has commercial volumes available and is already supplying EverSweet to various customers in the US and Mexico.
“We have been working on a lot of projects, someone who moves very fast could maybe launch in six months, but the average is around 12 to 18 months. From when we first announced commercially available material until now, we are starting to see those products hit the market. There are a few that are already out there, and I would imagine by the new year there will be some more on the market place across various categories and there will be more to come,” Ohmes affirms.
In Europe, however, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) approval takes a little longer. Therefore, Ohmes says products using EverSweet “could be available in around two years,” with other global locations, like Latin America, Australia and New Zealand, to come “within the year.”
Goddijn further highlights that there are a few additional countries that are close to being completed, noting Canada as an example.
A high market demand
The need for effective solutions for advanced sugar reduction on a global scale has never been clearer or more urgent, says Patrick Niels, President of DSM Food Specialties and Avansya Board Member. “With today’s opening, we are showing that, as an industry, we can do more, and faster, to innovate and provide consumers around the world with reduced- and zero-calorie food and beverage products, with no compromise on taste, and so help support good health and well-being in our societies.”
The market for high-intensity sweeteners produced by fermentation is expected to exceed US$3 billion by 2025, according to Cargill and DSM. The new US$50 million fermentation facility is located in Blair, Nebraska, and is operated by Cargill.
“I see expansion across multiple applications areas,” Ohmes continues. “Innovations that Cargill and DSM are working on will open up additional spaces where stevia couldn’t operate before such as concentrates, liquids and fountain beverages,” he explains. “There will definitely be room for new growth opportunities where stevia has never been before and they will continue as people opt for great tasting solutions,” Ohmes asserts.
The advantage of the fermentation process is that it’s very scalable, adds Ohmes. “Specifically with the Blair campus, Cargill did think ahead and can add additional capacity, in case the JV expands further,” he explains. “We would just need to add additional fermenters if that was the case.”
Goddijn further highlights that “there is more to come and people are looking at expanding their toolboxes to see if they can add more instruments.”
“There are also opportunities for Avansya to pick up additional products and tools to their customers. We do need to focus on bringing EverSweet to be as successful as possible and doing so as quickly as possible. The faster we can do that, the faster we can get the commitment of both partners of Avansya to expand our portfolio,” Goddijn concludes.