AG Watch

New stevia crop could offer sweet returns

Monday, September 19, 2011

A new crop now being harvested the Valley could be a game changer for the sweetener industry.

It's not like money is falling from the sky but there is a lot of green to be made in the stevia market. The green leaf is seen by some as the future of the sweetener industry.

Koren Sihota explained, "No calories no fat. It's healthy and as dependent as we are on sweet stuff it's going to sell itself."

Sihota heads the stevia project for the S & W Seed company. He grew a test plot last year to find the best variety. Now a 100 acre stevia plot was being harvested.

The stevia leaf was spread out onto a tarp to dry as soon as it was harvested. Sihota explained, "That's what it turns into. Nice dry and crisp after about two days with a little bit of sun and a little bit of wind."

The stevia extract reb-a is said to be 300 times sweeter than sugar. Stevia is native to Paraguay.

Once the stevia leaf is dried it is then shipped overseas and processed into very popular products. Some are sold by Coke and Pepsi.

Sihota said over 600 products now contain stevia. "There's so many soft drinks with it out there, Odwalla, Sobe Lifewater, they're putting it in tea."

S & W has partnered with Pure Circle, a company which sought a North American stevia supplier.

Sihota said, "It's been scary because there's a lot of eyes on you and you don't want to mess up."

(Copyright ©2014 KFSN-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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