The advent of a new generation of sweeteners from the stevia plant has attracted considerable interest from industry in markets in which extracts with a high purity of Reb A and/or steviol glycosides are already approved, such as the US, Australia and New Zealand.
But there is more to the discussion than commercial opportunity alone. Dorn Wenninger, corporate VP at Pure Circle, told FoodNavigator.com that corporate social responsibility was a major theme at the Stevia World conference in Shanghai last week.
“We will face high scrutiny as it is a new product,” he said, adding that it is inherent on the industry leaders to ensure they exceed expectations on aspects such as community welfare, pollution and food safety.
It appears that the leaders are stepping up to the challenge, as “commitment to that has been a theme.”
A group of industry players – from research, production and extraction companies – sat down last week to discuss the industry-wide need for good practices.
As well as working closely with farmers and communities to provide purchase quantities for a fixed price a year in advance, Pure Circle is looking to build relationships with non governmental organisations in the countries in which its stevia is grown, including Kenya, Columbia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and China.
It already has an arrangement in the San Pedro area of Paraguay with an NGO called Amigos de las Americas, which carries out public health projects in Central and Southern Americas.
Wenninger, who sits on the international board of directors for that NGO, said recently that PureCircle has recently made a $25,000 donation to allow volunteers to take part in community projects there – such as the building of new stoves.
Traditionally the people use wood burning stoves to cook food, but their inefficiency means they contribute to unnecessary deforestation. The new stoves still burn wood, as the intention is not to interfere in traditions, but they do so more efficiently.
In time, PureCircle expects to offer the opportunity for its own employees to volunteer in the projects.