Fermentation: The Next Big Thing in Stevia Production
Stevia, the miracle sweetener is rapidly replacing sugar and other substitutes in the food & beverage products. Reb A has been the dominant active ingredient of all steviol glycosides, due to its balanced sweetening profile, less after-taste bitterness and its abundance in the stevia leaf. Manufacturers have been dynamic in identifying potent steviol glycosides (other than Reb A), since the inception of stevia, as a sweetening agent. In the recent years, many companies have recognized the potential of Reb D as a commercial active ingredient. However, glycosides such as Reb C, Rec D, Reb E and so on are present in minute quantities in the stevia leaf. Production of these sparse glycosides generally results in high cost of operations, as their extraction process requires considerable amount of stevia leaves and other production inputs.
Generally, stevia is produced in three ways: Directly from the leaves, enzymatically and fermentation-based. Fermentation enables the stevia manufacturers to develop and produce glycosides which are identical to their natural ones. Furthermore, at a commercial level, this process allows manufacturers to produce desired glycosides in required quantities. In addition, obtaining necessary taste profile can also be achieved. Cargill Inc., Evolva Holdings, Stevia Corp have been pioneers in introducing this efficient production process to the stevia industry. DSM has recently announced its plan to produce stevia through fermentation process.
Cargill Inc., after a successful research along with Evolva Holdings Inc, has commercialized fermented sweetener based on Reb D and is set to launch EverSweet product in 2018. However, the entry of fermented products is expected to corrode the image of stevia as a ‘Natural sweetener’. It is also expected that the dominance of Reb A will be subdued with the large scale production and availability of other glycosides. Manufacturers have been increasingly adopting fermentation process for stevia production, as it offers flexibility, scalability and optimality. Along with these favorable factors, fermentation process supports the manufacturers to offer customized solutions for diversified needs of food industry. Driven by the path breaking innovations at ingredient as well as production process levels, the market for stevia
as an ingredient is estimated to cross $700m mark by 2022.
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