The Stevia World conference is taking place in Shanghai, China, today and tomorrow. Attendees represent a cross section of the industry – both geographically and across the supply chain, Dorn Wenninger, Corporate VP at Pure Circle told FoodNavigator.com.
Speaking from the conference, Wenninger, who delivered the key note speech, said:“Stevia is not just a high intensity sweetener, or for diet or low calorie products. It has an important place there, but it also has a home as a complement to sugar”. Reb A or steviol glycosides can replace as much as 10 to 20 per cent of sugar in a product, reducing both calories and cost.
As supply volumes and customer take-up increase, stevia companies will realise greater economies of scale – and prices for stevia-derived sweeteners will come down accordingly.
Even now, he said the price of steviol glycosides is today is below the price of sugar. “Steviol glycosides can be seen immediately as a cost effective complement to sugar.”
To illustrate the savings, he gave a price for sugar in the US at $0.77 per kilo. Steviol glycosides, meanwhile, which are 15 times sweeter than sugar, are $0.40 per kilo on an equivalent basis.
The comparison is for reference purposes only, since the FDA has issued no-objection letters for high purity Reb A as generally recognised as safe (GRAS), whereas for the rest of the world the JECFA conclusion that extracts with 95 percent steviol glycosides are safe have more bearing. Moreover, US sugar prices tend to be higher than elsewhere in the world.
But Wenninger said: “Even in the global marketplace $0.40 a kg would provide cost savings outside the US.”
“There are definitely cost savings, and clearly those numbers [for steviol glycosides] will have downward pressure over the years.” Sugar prices, meanwhile, fluctuate as it is a mature commodity.
As for Reb-A, which is 200 times sweeter than sugar, Pure Circle already has offers on the table that are on a par with the $0.77 per kilo cost of sugar – although he emphasised that this is for large scale use, such as carbonated soft drinks.
Over time, as supply is increase, economies of scale will come into play and bring the price down further.
No supply issues
While there have been some media reporters suggesting that there are issues with the supply availability of stevia-derived sweeteners, Wenninger maintains that these are erroneous.
“Independently in the different geographies there are companies working on increasing the supply,” he said.
Speakers on the first day of the conference reporting capacity increases included leaf producers from India, Vietnam, Egypt and China.