Corn Products gains rights to stevia-based sweetener

by Jeff Gelski
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Corn Products International, Inc., Westchester, Ill., entered into an agreement with Morita Kagaku Kogyo Co. Ltd., Osaka, Japan, for the exclusive license of its patented stevia strain, manufacturing technology and stevia production, along with global marketing and distribution rights.

Sweeteners from the stevia plant are allowed in dietary supplements in the United States. The Food and Drug Administration does not allow their use in foods or beverages because available toxicological information on stevia is inadequate to demonstrate its safety as a food additive or its status as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS).

Corn Products International will market the sweetener under the brand name Enliten and file for regulatory approval in the United States, although that process is expected to take several years to complete.

"While the commercialization and production scale-up of Enliten is not expected to make a significant contribution to our revenues in the near term, this is another initiative we are taking to lay the groundwork for longer-term profitable growth," said Sam Scott, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Corn Products International.

Cargill, Minneapolis, and The Coca-Cola Co., Atlanta, already are working under a partnership to develop a high-intensity sweetener from the stevia plant that the companies will call rebiana. The partnership involves research that seeks to gain GRAS approval for rebiana in food and beverages in the United States.

Several countries in Asia and South America already have approved stevia-based sweeteners for use in foods and beverages. Morita Kagaku Kogyo began to commercialize the sweeteners in 1971.

"Morita is a pioneer in the development of several stevia plant varieties, including patented varieties in the U.S. and Japan," Mr. Scott said. "Our agreement combines Morita’s 30 years of experience with stevia and Rebaudioside A with Corn Products’ global operating footprint and decades of local and regional marketing knowledge and strong customer partnerships."

Rebaudioside A is the sweetest part of stevia leaves.

Corn Products will use patented plants in both hemispheres to increase the sweetener’s supply. Contracted growers in Brazil began to grow the stevia plant for Corn Products more than a year ago.

"In addition to current access to Morita’s production in Japan, Corn Products is committing $20 million to begin construction this year of a dedicated plant in Brazil, with a year-end 2009 completion date, to meet expected growth in customer demand," Mr. Scott said.

Corn Products will market Enliten in select Latin American and Asian countries where the sweetener already is approved for use in foods and beverages, he said.

This article can also be found in the digital edition of Food Business News, April 29, 2008, starting on Page 60. Click here to search that archive.

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