Stevia sweeteners are natural, zero-calorie, high-intensity sweeteners that are typically
200-300x sweeter than sugar.
Currently extracted from farm-raised stevia plants, they are the fastest growing segment in the sweetener market today, formulated in thousands of food and beverage products.
Despite the undoubted success, there is a problem with the currently available stevia sweeteners – their taste.
The impact of these two issues can most readily be seen in carbonated soft drinks. The use of stevia as a sweetener for such drinks has strongly accelerated in recent years. In almost all such products, the stevia is blended with sugar or similar to mask the bitterness. The taste and sweetening power issues of the current stevia sweeteners mean that the sugar cannot be replaced entirely. Consequently, stevia is not achieving its zero-calorie potential.
The stevia plant also makes stevia sweeteners (for example, Reb D and Reb M) that do not have taste problems. Unfortunately, these are present at very low concentrations in the leaf, well below 1%. Getting commercial volumes of such sweeteners would require large amounts of resources and end up prohibitively expensive.
By making these better-tasting sweeteners using yeast fermentation, Evolva solves this problem. Reb D and Reb M can be made on a large scale with economics that make them affordable to the average person. Our approach also provides a simpler, shorter and safer supply chain than traditional cultivation, processing and refining of plants.
Evolva has pioneered the discovery and development of bio-processing approaches to stevia sweeteners. As of March 2017 we held 13 granted and 81 pending patents around the ingredients and the production process.
In autumn 2015 our partner Cargill unveiled the branding of the next-generation zero-calorie sweetener under the name EverSweetTM, and launched a dedicated website for the product. The taste has been broadly validated by Tier 1 mass-market food and beverage producers. Cargill has publicly stated that customer feedback to EverSweet™ has been very positive.
EverSweet™ is on course to launch in 2018. EverSweet™ will be launched in the US. Under the 2018 launch plan, EverSweet™ will be produced initially at Cargill’s advanced, highly efficient, bioprocessing campus in Blair, Nebraska (USA) at a fermentation facility that will be retrofitted and retooled. Evolva and Cargill are additionally examining an accelerated move to a new facility that would act as a production hub for other Evolva products, including nootkatone and resveratrol, and those of certain Evolva partners.
In 2016, Cargill received a “no-objection” letter from the FDA. Evolva holds pivotal patents in the US and EU covering, first and foremost, the fermentation production of commercially relevant stevia sweeteners.
We believe that our next-generation stevia sweeteners have the potential to significantly expand access to and use of stevia worldwide.
What is clear is that the need to reduce sugar consumption and the pledges of large food companies to reduce sugar in their products continue to gain momentum. The need for alternatives to sugar is clear and stevia is well placed to be “the next big thing”. But at the same time for stevia to achieve its full potential, it is necessary to both significantly improve its taste and reduce its cost, both of which we believe our approach can achieve.
Working from market data compiled by Mirabaud Securities, LMC International and others, we estimate that the total addressable market for “next generation” stevia products is around USD 4 billion. One way to derive this number is to assume that “next-generation” stevia can potentially substitute for roughly 50% of the HFCS and 10% of the sucrose used in today’s beverages, whilst not having any use in other product categories (such as confectionery or dairy products).
Such an addressable market is significantly greater than current stevia sales (estimated at around USD 200-300 million at the ingredient level). We justify this on the assumption that solving the current taste and cost issues of stevia will greatly expand its potential use, for example by allowing the creation of zero-calorie stevia soft drink products. However at the same time the estimate is only a small fraction of the total sweetener market (estimated at some USD 60-70 billion).