Evolva and Cargill have agreed to begin the engineering phase for converting an existing Cargill manufacturing facility to produce next-generation stevia sweeteners (steviol glycosides). The ingredients are expected to be commercially available in 2016.
Stevia-based sweeteners are highly sought-after natural, zero-calorie sweeteners. However, their broader use is currently constrained by their taste at high usage levels, which can be bitter or have an after-taste. Certain stevia sweetener molecules such as Reb D and Reb M do not have this problem, but, because they only make up a tiny portion of the plant’s leaf (much less than 1 percent), it is prohibitively costly to obtain them from the stevia plant. Fermentation removes these constraints and should allow a dramatic expansion in the use of next generation stevia sweeteners, allowing food and beverage producers to create new classes of lower calorie products that taste great and are affordable to all.
These sweeteners will be produced in a Cargill fermentation system in Blair, Nebraska. Using a larger existing facility gives the companies the flexibility to expand rapidly and cost-effectively to meet commercial demand.
Under terms of the 2013 joint development agreement between the two companies, Evolva received an option to obtain up to a 45% stake in the business to commercialize the sweeteners. Evolva has informed Cargill that it intends to exercise this 45% option, subject to final terms being agreed between the two companies.