S&W Seed company to begin commercial scale planting of stevia
May. 19, 2011
S&W recently completed the installation of a sub-surface pressurized irrigation system on a 114-acre planting site located in California's Central Valley; and within the next week, expects to initiate the planting of its first crop of stevia plants germinated from seeds originally sourced from China. The stevia plants are currently growing in greenhouses, and the transplanting of the plants in the field was recently slowed due to adverse weather conditions in the Central Valley.
The Company's stevia project team, led by program director Koren Sihota, will transplant up to approximately 3.8 million stevia plants. Notwithstanding any unforeseen challenges, the Company plans to complete its first of two planned cuttings by September 2011. The harvested stevia leaf will then be dried and processed at S&W's seed cleaning and processing plant in Five Points and shipped to the Company's strategic business partner, PureCircle, Ltd., for commercial refining and subsequent sale to major food and beverage manufacturers. Based on this timeline, S&W expects to book its first stevia sales during the second half of this calendar year.
Stevia is the source for an all-natural sugar substitute, known as Rebaudioside A, or Reb-A, that is up to 300 times sweeter than sugar, yet has no calories, no carbohydrates and a zero glycemic index, making it a popular natural alternative to sugar and chemical sweeteners. The global market for stevia sweeteners has already hit $500 million dollars following US regulatory approval in late 2008 and could reach $10 billion in a few years, according to market research firm Mintel. In its December 2010 report, titled Sugar and Sweeteners - US, Mintel states, "Reb-A and stevia is projected to penetrate 20 to 25 percent of the global sugar and sweetener market, which is currently still growing." In early May, AC Nielsen reported that Truvia, the two-year old tabletop stevia sweetener, recently surpassed Sweet 'N Low to become the #2 sugar substitute in the country, and is now in more than five million U.S. households.
Stevia Breeding Program Update
Using traditional plant breeding techniques without genetic modifications, S&W continues to make material strides in its efforts to develop proprietary stevia varieties that will consistently yield a high percentage of high purity Reb-A and Reb-C. Reb-C, or Rebaudioside C, is also an all-nature derivative of stevia that can be used to enhance the sweet taste of carbohydrate sweeteners, such as sucrose and fructose.
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