Codex Approves New Stevia Framework

Stevia Granules

Brussels, Belgium—Codex Alimentarius has adopted a new framework for steviol glycosides.

The Committee explained in the framework that there are two previously existing specification monographs for steviol glycosides, requiring that products consist of at least 95% steviol glycosides on a dried basis, taking into account the major glycosides stevioside and rebaudioside A and the minor glycosides including rebaudioside M and rebaudioside D. However, the minor glycosides have more favorable sensory characteristics than the major ones, prompting development of new technologies to produce products with higher proportions of minor glycosides in order to achieve different sensory profiles. This new framework was developed to address products manufactured using four existing methods, and approves: stevia leaf extract; steviol glycosides from bioconversion; steviol glycosides from fermentation; and glucosylated steviol glycosides. The framework describes methods of production and corresponding specifications, as well as assay and impurity specifications. The framework can be found here.

The International Stevia Council (ISC) applauded the move, stating in a press release: “The Framework and these production technologies will enable greater access to the full range of stevia ingredients to a significant portion of the world and will continue to answer consumer demand for healthier products.”

ISC further explains that these next-gen glycosides have a reduced bitterness and licorice aftertaste, providing a taste closer to that of sugar. The four technologies approved in the framework enable sustainable production of these steviol glycosides.

“ISC was instrumental in getting this new framework approved, which benefits the entire stevia industry,” says Maria Teresa Scardigli, ISC Executive Director. “The Framework approach ensures that business operators can put steviol glycosides produced through their various technologies on the market without submitting new dossiers, provided they fulfill the defined criteria and specifications per technology. This is based on the authorities’ review of the production technology, ensuring the highest level of safety, purity and quality is achieved for the final steviol glycoside ingredient put on the market.”

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ISC’s press release points to data from Innova, which show that global product launches with stevia have increased by 21.9% CAGR over the past 10 years, during which the majority of product launches have taken place in North America, Asia, and Western Europe. Beverage continues to be the leading category for new product launches with stevia, while sports nutrition, supplements, dairy, snacks, and confectionary are also seeing growth. ISC cites Nielsen data for the 52-week-period ending December 4, 2021, showing that U.S. retail sales of products containing stevia represents $3.9b of total food and beverage sales.

“As we look forward to 2022 and beyond, we are confident that our organization will continue to make strides in terms of our vision and strategic imperatives,” said Scardigli. “Our mission is to improve the diets and health of people globally by addressing sugars and calories in food, to support stevia and steviol glycosides as safe and trusted sweeteners, and to promote its wide variety of uses as a sweetener.”

Sweegen, a stevia producer and a member of ISC, also cheered the announcement, explaining in a press release: “The significance of the adoption is that there is now a more streamlined approach to regional adoption of new production technologies. This will provide greater access to less common and better-tasting steviol glycosides at scale and a more sustainable supply of the sugar-like tasting ingredients.”

The adoption is “timely,” says Luca Giannone, Senior Vice President of Sales, as global consumers are looking for the sweet, low-sugar products that stevia can provide. Giannone commented: “The adopted framework is good news for brands that want greater access to Sweegen’s pure and clean tasting stevia ingredients, Rebs D, E, M, and more. With this framework, most countries in the world will gradually adopt this standard, and our global stevia footprint can expand more rapidly into countries where we are seeking approval for offering our Signature Bestevia ingredients produced by bioconversion. By leveraging proprietary bioconversion technology, we start with the stevia leaf, and with the support of enzymes, produce a final product that is a single purified steviol glycoside (not a mixture) that naturally occurs in the stevia leaf.”

Steven Chen, Sweegen’s CEO, added: “We welcome the adoption of the Codex framework and the opportunity to support our customers globally with new sugar reduction innovations. Sweegen is proud to be part of this collaborative effort to bring much needed innovation to the food and beverage industry.”