Stevia first: reinventing nutrition by replacing sugar

This article examines sugar's role in major diseases and how Stevia First aims to combat the issue by replacing with its compelling zero-calorie alternative

Metabolic syndrome is a combination of factors that multiply a person's risk for heart disease, diabetes and stroke, which affects roughly 34% of American adults.

The condition is characterised by raised triglycerides, reduced HDL cholesterol and increased blood pressure, and fasting plasma glucose compared with well-established health standards. Studies have shown that fructose - found in table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) - is a leading cause of these issues.

Not surprisingly some of the biggest users in the world of fructose, and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in particular, are beverage companies such as the Coca-Cola Co., Dr Pepper Snapple, and Pepsi Co. In 2009 the FDA ruled that products containing HFCS could not be labelled 'natural,' which led Hansen's Natural Corporation to announce that they were moving to cane sugar and eventually had enough of an impact to change the entire company name to Monster Beverage Corporation.

In this article, we'll take a look at sugar's role in major diseases and how Stevia First Corp. aims to combat the issue by replacing sugar through increased global supply of their compelling zero-calorie alternative.

Sugar's role in disease

To your body, sugar and HFCS are nearly identical. Both are metabolised as glucose and fructose, and fructose in particular plays a major role in metabolic syndrome, which in turn contributes to the development of heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers.

Although it's technically just a carbohydrate, fructose is metabolised by the body in a unique way that could lead many metabolic markers - including triglyceride levels and fasting plasma glucose levels - to increase and ultimately cause many of the underlying symptoms of metabolic syndrome.

Excess ingestion of fructose - a component of sugar - increases VLDL production, which increases apoB or LDL-P due to a high triglyceride load. At reasonable doses, insulin resistance levels also degrade with fructose consumption, which leads to an increase of fasting plasma glucose levels and amplifies the damage caused by other foods. Both of these dynamics can lead to many of the symptoms associated with heart disease and diabetes.

Artificial sweeteners are demonised

Artificial sweeteners have become a popular alternative to sugar, despite claims and perceived risk by many that they cause cancer or other diseases. Aspartame was rejected more than once by the FDA before being approved, but by now, there are probably few substances that have been more tested by the FDA than artificial sweeteners.

Researchers that demonstrated negative effects of high-potency sweeteners often had to pump rats with very high dose, consumption levels that rarely occur with humans.

Most artificial sweeteners such as sucralose are far sweeter than sucrose, which means that less needs to be used, often leading to a label of zero calories. There is even a drink containing sucralose, made by Celsius Holdings, Inc., that claims to burn 100 calories per 12 ounce serving!

This product may demonstrate what is possible when combining zero-calorie sweeteners with large doses of caffeine and other ingredients that may increase energy expenditure. Other artificial sweeteners, such as alcohol sugars, aren't sweeter than sucrose, but have a very different metabolic profile.

Stevia solves the problem

Stevia, as a zero-calorie natural sweetener, has all the health benefits of reducing calories, coupled with a great reputation and track record of safety. It has much less impact on insulin and other metabolic markers than sugar or HFCS, and therefore contributes far less to metabolic syndrome.

Stevia has already been the centrepiece of several success stories within the food and beverage industries, including Coca-Cola Corporation and Cargill's Truvia and Coca-Cola's Vitaminwater Zero, which is privately owned through its Energy Brands subsidiary.

In its first year, Vitaminwater Zero was estimated to have generated more than $100 million in revenue, whereas Truvia generated an estimated $130 million in annual revenue in 2013, according to Statista.com. Now, owing to this recent success with stevia products, multinational food and beverage giants like Coca-Cola and Cargill are seeking to find ways to increase global supply of this critical ingredient.

Solving a supply issue

In response to this growing demand, Stevia First has developed a proprietary agri-bio technique that significantly reduces the labour-intensive process of leaf production (typically 70% of traditional costs). The company has achieved this, in part, through the development of innovative bioprocessing techniques could more than double annual yields of stevia leaf per acre.

With intellectual property related to these production techniques, as well as additional technologies designed to modernise the stevia supply chain, the company holds unique rights to groundbreaking technologies in the space.

In August of 2014, the company signed a technology license and distribution agreement with Qualipride establishing a path to soon become the only North American stevia producer. This agreement also now provides the company with access to large existing inventory and production capacity of more than 1000 metric tons of high-grade stevia each year. These dynamics could help it become cash flow positive as early as this year as it gears up production.

Looking ahead

Stevia First aims to improve the lives of millions by introducing stevia as a sugar alternative and saturating the market by leveraging its high-yield production methods. With Purecircle valued at more than $1 billion, the company has ample opportunity to grow within the industry by solving some of its key supply chain issues and delivering increasing amounts of high-quality product to leading food and beverage companies.

As it nears a cash flow breakeven point, the company’s management team also plans to continue to invest in R&D and consumer awareness campaigns, especially projects that could accelerate the trend of sugar reduction and help fight the twin global diabetes and obesity epidemics.

The R&D team has developed cutting-edge bioinformatics and bioprocessing capabilities that could prove to be an extraordinary advantage within the industry, and could prove to be the tools needed to achieve ambitious sector-leading goals, and to unlock significant long-term shareholder value in the process. The timing appears right, as heightened consumer awareness and new technologies are leading to rapid changes in consumer behavior, and mounting concerns on sugar over-consumption could mean a shake-up in the $60 billion market for sugar is inevitable.

The beverage industry consists of a wide range of both micro-producers such as Reed’s Inc. and Jones Soda Co., and multinational corporations who are a worldwide household name.

Stevia First has the unique ability with their technology and enhanced distribution to work with all companies in this industry. Investors may want to take an especially close look at the stock as it nears a cash flow breakeven point and begins to look into these exciting new areas that could represent substantial market opportunities.

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