‘A new toolkit for sugar reduction’: Sweegen’s Reb M gets safety nod in Europe

By Katy Askew

- Last updated on GMT

Sweegen secures landmark EFSA approval for its Reb M sweetener / Pic: GettyImages-Nitiphonphat
Sweegen secures landmark EFSA approval for its Reb M sweetener / Pic: GettyImages-Nitiphonphat

Related tags Stevia Sweegen

The European Commission has approved the use of Sweegen’s non-GMO Signature Bestevia Rebaudioside M (Reb M) for use in food and beverages. “We are opening the doors for product developers to explore a new toolkit for sugar reduction across all products categories,” SVP of sales Luca Giannone tells FoodNavigator.

California-based Sweegen is strengthening its footprint in Europe after the ‘monumental’ news that the European Commission has approved its Signature Bestevia Reb M ingredient for use in food and beverages in the region.

Reb M is one of many steviol glycosides found in the leaves of the Stevia plant. It offers a sweet taste close to that of sugar and is free of the aftertaste associated with Reb-A, a stevia-based sweetener commonly used in F&B formulation. The problem with Reb M is that it is found in relatively small amounts in the stevia plant – meaning standard plant extraction is too expensive and maximum global output of Reb M is limited.

Sweegen uses a bioconversion process starting with the stevia leaf. The proprietary enzymatic process increases Bestevia Reb M's production prior to isolation and purification of the sweet molecules, which are ‘substantially the same as those found in nature’. In the US, Sweegen obtained Non-GMO Project verification for its Signature Bestevia stevia sweeteners.

Sweegen is the first company to receive the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) panel’s safety approval for any steviol glycoside produced by alternative and sustainable technologies, the company claimed.

Supporting innovation and reformulation

The approval of Sweegen’s Reb M ingredient broadens the toolkit available to product developers seeking sugar alternatives in the region. 

Luca Giannone, Sweegen’s SVP of sales, believes that the arrival of Bestevia will have a significant impact on Europe’s innovation and reformulation landscape.

“By introducing clean new ingredients to the sugar reduction landscape, we will see new products with qualities of indulgence, but with a healthy and more natural position. New product and brand launches will excite consumers as they are continuously seeking delicious food and beverages that align with health and wellness,”​ he predicted.

The bloc has seen an increase in activity to promote innovation around healthier alternatives of late, with signatories of the recent launch of a Code of Conduct setting out ambitions to double-down on reformulation efforts​ and the Union of European Soft Drinks Associations (UNESDA) backing a commitment to reduce average added sugars in its beverages by a further 10% across Europe by 2025​. 

GettyImages-Marcus Volk stevia
Reb M is found in low quantities in the stevia plant, making extraction not commercially viable. Sweegen's proprietary production process has an answer / Pic: GettyImages-Marcus Volk

“We are opening the doors for products developers to explore a new toolkit for sugar reduction across all products categories, including no-to-low alcoholic beverages,"​ Giannone told FoodNavigator. 

“This development inspires upcoming brands to innovate new products which consumers are looking to explore. Also, the approval enables us to help all brands to develop and reformulate with meaningful sugar reduction, and collaborate closely on delicious clean, healthy and plant-based products.”

Giannone suggested the company’s Reb M solution goes ‘beyond simply lowering calories’ to ‘improving texture and elevating mouthfeel’.

Sweegen expanding European reach

In its further commitment to Europe, Sweegen has aligned the availability of its Reb M with commercializing the sweetener at its manufacturing facility in the region.

The facility provides food and beverage manufacturers with 'rapid production' and 'low cost-in-use' sugar reduction solutions, the company said.

To complement the approval of Reb M, Sweegen also invested in designing and building an innovation studio in Reading, England. The studio opened its doors in January 2021 with a full applications team to collaborate with food and beverage manufacturers.

“Our rapid innovation in application development enables our customer-focused solutions to help manufacturers create great-tasting, clean, natural, plant-based, sustainable products that meet today’s end-consumer needs and desires,”​ said Giannone.

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