PureCircle expanding stevia extract capacity

by Jeff Gelski
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — PureCircle is increasing its production of Rebaudioside A, a sweetener extracted from the stevia plant, and also expecting more business in the United States now that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has said it has no questions about the safety of using Rebaudioside A in foods and beverages.

"This marks the opening of the largest market for Reb A," said Magomet Malsagov, chief executive of PureCircle. "Food and drink manufacturers will now be able to use it as a sweetener ingredient — either as a complement to sugar or as a healthy substitute for synthetic sweeteners — across their entire product ranges."

PureCircle has 50,000 tonnes of leaf extraction capacity coming online in March 2009, Mr. Malsagov said. PureCircle already has a refinery in Malaysia that produces 1,000 tonnes per year and is expanding an extraction plant in China that will increase its production to 4,000 tonnes per from 1,000 tonnes per year. PureCircle is constructing an extraction plant in Kenya and developing plantations in Kenya, China, Paraguay, Thailand and Laos.

"Through the combination of PureCircle’s first-mover advantage, diversified supply chain, leading technology, strong market position and strategic partnerships, the company is poised to lead the natural sweetener market into a new era," Mr. Malsagov said.

Earlier this year PureCircle announced contract extensions with Cargill, Minneapolis, and new contracts with PepsiCo, Inc., Purchase, N.Y., and Whole Earth Sweetener Co., L.L.C., South Bend, Ind., for the supply of Rebaudioside A in beverages, foods and tabletop sweeteners worldwide. PureCircle has a license agreement giving the company the right to sell Rebaudioside A under the PureVia brand in categories and customers to be determined.

Cargill and Whole Earth Sweetener Co. both filed petitions with the F.D.A. in May claiming studies have proven the Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) status of Rebaudioside A in foods and beverages. The F.D.A. on Dec. 17 issued letters saying it had no questions about the GRAS status in the petitions.

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