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INTERVIEW

“We will cut 250 bn calories from diet by 2020”
Monday, 18 February, 2019, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
PureCircle is the leading producer and innovator of great-tasting stevia sweeteners for the global F&B industry. It has dedicated the business to producing the best, natural-origin, zero-calorie sweetener made from Starleaf stevia plants. In an e-mail interaction with Khyati Das, Navneet Singh, head, South-East Asia Region, PureCircle, highlights investing in perfecting great-tasting stevia. Excerpts:

What is the size of the stevia market in India? At what rate is it growing?
India has a tremendously important role to play in growing the stevia market, as it is one of the largest consumers of sugar globally. The stevia market is a $200-250 million market today, and is growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20-25 per cent. PureCircle continues to see double-digit growth Y-O-Y (year-on-year).

Stevia was approved in India in 2015, but the market has shown a great response. In fact, the response to it has been even better than it has in some of the developed countries. New product launches with stevia in India are projected to see double-digit growth this year, just as it has globally.

Globally, stevia has really become the mainstay for B2B (business-to-business) companies in their drive to develop low-calorie, naturally-sweetened products. Major brands from major companies like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestle, Danone, Kraft Heinz and Mondelez have already used stevia, with success in many markets overseas, and we would expect the same to happen in India.

Food and beverage companies have an increasing need for stevia sweeteners, because consumers, health experts and governments have become increasingly concerned about obesity and diabetes. With regulatory pressure in the form of taxes/levies, and consumers generally being more aware of their own nutrition, stevia sweeteners are well-positioned to be a go-to solution for the food and beverage industry.
Being the global leader, customers rely on PureCircle’s innovation, supply chain and application expertise in accelerating product development. Our recently-established South Asia lab in Gurgaon now offers a plethora of support from marketing insights, regulatory support to application support to enable customers to go from concept to launch quickly.

What are your expansion plans in 2019?
Our vision is to see stevia as the mainstream natural, zero-calorie sweetening option for Indian consumer in their daily food and beverage consumption. Stevia has synergy with sugar, thus we expect to see most of stevia launches to be in synergy with sugar to drive down calories of regular products. Along with reduction of calories, stevia can also make a positive impact on carbon footprint, water footprint and eventually farmer incomes.

PureCircle’s flagship South Asia laboratory is ready to support formulation for customers looking to reduce sugar with a new generation of ingredients stemming from the stevia leaf. With our portfolio of sweeteners and flavours and global innovation leadership, we can help address our customers’ taste challenges like no one else. We expect significant growth over the next few years.

India is a major part of our global calorie footprint. We are confident that by 2020 we will be able to help the country to cut down 250 billion calories from its diet.

What is the fiscal turnover expected in 2019?
Due to its natural origin and no calorie proposition, stevia has extremely high consumer appeal as a concept.

Across the globe, PureCircle’s portfolio of innovative stevia sweeteners and flavours has enabled major brands to reformulate full sugar products with this natural, zero-calorie solution to address consumer demands.
We are confident our expertise with all things stevia will complement our customers’ interest in reducing calories, providing Indian consumers with a variety of lower-calorie, naturally-sweetened options for years to come.

What are the health benefits of stevia vis-a-vis regular sugar? Tell us about the advances in stevia technology and safety.
Global regulatory organisations, such as the Joint FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization)/WHO (World Health Organization) Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), several major regional and many country-specific regulatory authorities have given stevia their safety stamp of approval.

Stevia can be found in foods and beverages worldwide in over 150 countries and counting, including the United States, Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Spain, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Columbia, India, China and Malaysia.

Experts agree that stevia is safe for everyone, including children, women who are pregnant or nursing and people with diabetes, and that it offers many benefits:
  • Stevia leaf extract is naturally sourced from the stevia plant
  • Stevia is zero calorie so it allows for the enjoyment of sweet taste without unwanted calories
  • Stevia can help lower blood glucose when used to displace sugar, carbohydrates and calories in the diet with reduced-sugar reduced-calorie foods and beverages
  • Stevia on its own provides no glycaemic load
  • Stevia is tooth-friendly
  • Stevia is safe and suitable for the family
Can stevia, being a zero-calorie sweetener, be used in sugar-free desserts? What is the potential of growth for snacks and baked goods containing stevia?
Stevia sweeteners are being used in a wide range of categories. In addition to carbonated soft drinks and RTD (ready-to-drink) teas, it is observed that stevia ingredients are being used in significantly more ice creams, frozen yoghurts, sweet biscuits, cookies and flavoured waters last year when compared to the last few years.

The company anticipates that food and beverage companies will continue to increase their use of stevia as their go-to, non-GMO (genetically-modified organism), sweetening solution, as well as using stevia as a functional ingredient. This will provide consumers a great-tasting, plant-based ingredient they desire.

Traditional Indian sweets and desserts is one of the most promising categories for stevia to maximise reductions and assure consumer health.
We have tailored stevia leaf sweeteners for traditional sweets like Soan Papdi, Gulab Jamun, etc., which can revolutionise Indian sweets manufactures responsible efforts to moderate sugar naturally for consumers without compromising great taste. All deep reductions are now possible at great taste using PureCircle stevia sweeteners.

Do you think the use of stevia will retain the same flavour and texture as sugar?
The story of stevia has changed in recent years. Not long ago, stevia was viewed as a plant-based, zero-calorie, single-ingredient sweetener which
worked well in some beverage and food applications. That was then.

Today we offer a range of stevia leaf sweetener ingredients, including Reb M, with sugar-like taste and zero calories. And today with stevia, there are no taste trade-offs or compromises.

Recent PureCircle advances enable us to significantly boost production of high-grade stevia sweeteners – like Reb M and Reb D — which have the most sugar-like taste and are highly sought-after by beverage and food companies.

That means we can supply stevia sweeteners in amounts that customers need as they expand use of stevia ingredients – and we can do it cost effectively for them.
 
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