Malaysia

PureCircle begins work to double stevia production capacity

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock
© iStock

Related tags: Stevia

Natural sweetener major PureCircle will build a new processing plant that will double its capacity to produce a proprietary stevia leaf extract. 

The US$42m Malaysian facility will also feature a line designed for its Zeta family of steviol glycoside ingredients. Once complete, the plant will increase PureCircle’s stevia leaf extract output by 50%, and has the potential to double its capacity over time.

The company recently announced a 9% increase in sales for the last financial year, to US$138.6m from US$127.3m in 2014-15.

It now markets 20 products all derived from the same stevia leaf, which have been growing in global popularity as consumers become increasingly aware of the impact of sugar on conditions such as diabetes and obesity.

Even so, second-half sales this year were lower than anticipated due to delayed launches and action by US Customs and Border Protection.

At the end of June, CBP released PureCircle shipments of stevia extracts from China that had been held at American ports of entry based on inaccurate information it had obtained that the sweetener had been produced with convict labour.

It released the goods after a third-party report found no evidence of forced, bonded or involuntary prison labour.

"We are extremely excited about bringing this new plant online because the demand for stevia has increased dramatically over the last six years​," said PureCircle's chief commercial officer, Jason Hecker. 

It will also meet demand for Zeta ingredients, which has “grown exponentially​”, and allow PureCircle to support the stevia industry in a way that is “unmatched by other suppliers​”, Hecker added.

The output ensures that our customers will have a steady supply of sustainable stevia and will be able to formulate their products with the best tasting stevia in the marketplace​.”

The plant is part of the company’s plans to support its fully integrated supply chain and agricultural plants around the world. PureCircle will also invest US$100m in an agronomy programme to implement a 10,000-hectare pipeline to provide year-round access to stevia leaf extract for customers.

"We are really proud of our supply chain and how we've been able to maintain it in a way that benefits farmers, our customers and the environment​," said Bob Compier, vice-president of operations. 

"We can create the largest natural supply of stevia leaf extract through our efforts with farmers and have the production plans in place to bring that supply to our customers in a timely manner​."

Headquartered in Kuala Lumpur, PureCircle grows stevia plants on farms in China, Kenya and Paraguay, and has an extraction plant in China. The expansion is expected to be complete in early 2017.

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