PureCircle, the Chicago-based stevia sweetener producer, plans to “vastly increase” the amount of its propriety StarLeaf stevia planted in 2018.
It plans to plant nearly 16,000 tons in 2018 – an increase of about 200% over the prior year. However, the company adds that its plans are “subject to various conditions such as weather”.
With the planned increases in planting, the company estimates that 80% of the stevia plants it uses this year will be StarLeaf — likely increasing to 90% next year.
Expanding the planting and use of its stevia leaf will enable the company to meet the increasing demand of food and beverage industries for zero-calories stevia sweeteners.
PureCircle utilizes a wide and expanding global agricultural network for its stevia supply, sourcing it from an increasing number of countries around the world.
Part of the dramatic increase in StarLeaf planting is the result of our new farming partnerships in North Carolina, the company says.
Some farmers there – working with PureCircle — are starting to use land that once grew tobacco, to grow StarLeaf plants. Planting stevia enables them to grow and sell a highly-sought after crop, the demand for which is growing, and to productively use their farming acreage.
Growing appetite for stevia
The food and beverage industry has seen a steady increase in product launches featuring stevia as an ingredient, as evidenced by the 10% increase in 2017 as compared to 2016 according to Mintel.
In 2017 alone, about 3,500 products launched with stevia. Since the first regulatory green light in the US in 2008 for use of stevia leaf ingredients in foods and beverages, it has been utilized in more than 16,000 products globally.
Consumer awareness of stevia is growing, and stevia is viewed favourably by consumers, who continue to seek out stevia as their preferred plant-based, zero-calorie sweetener.