The two companies announced their alliance in late September 2010. Stevia sweeteners are being positioned as a complement to sucrose, as they can be used to replace 10 to 20 per cent of the sugar in products, thus reducing calories.
The new joint venture, born on 18 March, is called NP Sweet A/S, and is based at Nordzucker’s premises in Copenhagen (formerly Danisco Sugar, which Nordzucker acquired in 2008). It is a 50-50 joint venture between the two parent companies, but at the moment the investment is mainly in time and effort, rather than financial, NP Sweet general manager Lars Bo Jørgensen told FoodNavigator.com.
For the time-being the new company employes only a handful of staff directly at present, but that it will be able to draw on the capabilities of its parent companies, namely the scale, distribution and sugar technologies of Nordzucker, with the technologies and product innovation of PureCircle.
The company will handle both the development of stevia-sucrose combinations, dubbed ‘steviasucrose’ and their sales and marketing ingredients in northern and eastern Europe.
“We have some combinations developed already, but we are still working on this. The first prototypes and versions are being discussed with potential customers,” Jørgensen said.
“Our technologies are underpinned by integrated supply chains that offer customers sustainability and traceability from field to final application. No other company can offer this”.
While high purity sweeteners derived from the Paraguayan stevia plant received FDA GRAS (generally recognised as safe) in the US in late 2008, Europe – with the exception of France, which took advantage of a 2-year window for early approval – is a market in waiting. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has published its scientific opinion that stevia sweeteners according to the WHO/FAO JECFA specifications are safe, but approval from the European Commission is still pending.
Jørgensen said the current indications from people close to the regulatory process are that this approval will come in the second half of 2011, hopefully in September. Nordzucker and Pure Circle are viewing NP Sweet as “an important vehicle for growth” once approval is granted.
With food manufacturers conducting product development work ahead of time, it is expected that stevia-containing products will appear on shelves soon after approval.