It says this intellectual property is “pivotal” to the commercial expansion and ensuring broader access of its stevia sweeteners.
The patent, under number 2742142, protects Evolva’s method of converting steviol glycoside rebaudioside A (Reb A) to Reb D and Reb M, which taste better and are more commercially interesting.
It has been working with Cargill on a joint programme to develop and produce minor steviol glycosides via fermentation technologies since March 2013 - Cargill's EverSweet is the fruit of this project.
However, to date, no country has authorised fermentation-derived stevia for commercial use.
Nevertheless, senior marketing manager for Cargill’s stevia and sugar business, Mandy Kennedy, told us its customers are interested in EverSweet, and are excited about the scalability that fermentation offers. On the significance of the European patent she said: "This IP validates our leadership position in the field, which further supports the selling process to customers. Our current commercial strategy remains in effect.”
Cargill has completed an application for Generally Recognised as Safe (GRAS) status in the US and said it expects to a receive a letter of no objection from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this summer.
Currently, fermentation-derived steviol glycosides are not approved in the EU, and for Cargill to market and sell EverSweet in Europe it would need to submit a dossier to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for approval.
“[We were] the first company to discover the enzymes capable of carrying out the key unknown steps in the Reb A and Reb D biosynthesis pathways,” Evolva said in a statement. "This discovery enables the production of these steviol glycosides through bioprocessing, solving the taste and cost conundrum of stevia sweeteners that has limited their broader commercial use."
It has 54 patents pending around the world, and has seen four of these granted so far in Australia, New Zealand, China and now Europe.
Evolva’s other products include resveratrol, vanillin, nootkatone and saffron.