Crops News

North Carolina tobacco growers diversify with stevia

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For North Carolina farmers looking to get out of tobacco, stevia cultivation may be an option. PureCircle, the world’s leading producer and innovator of great-tasting stevia sweeteners for the global beverage and food industries, is launching a new stevia farming program that will provide economic opportunities for tobacco farmers looking for a sustainable crop which is in high demand by the global food and beverage industry.

This past fall, PureCircle partnered with North Carolina farmers to successfully plant and harvest StarLeaf stevia in small trial plots. PureCircle and its partner-farmers will significantly increase commercial production of StarLeaf for the next planting season. PureCircle’s StarLeaf is a variety of the plant that contains rich amounts of the most sugar-like tasting, zero-calorie stevia sweeteners. The project in North Carolina is part of PureCircle’s global program to scale up StarLeaf production, while also providing domestically grown stevia to the North American market.

The trials this fall confirmed stevia grows well in soil and climate conditions that were conducive to growing tobacco. Wth the declining demand for tobacco, stevia cultivation offers farmers in North Carolina the opportunity to increase returns and productivity of their acreage.

Stevia is becoming the preferred zero-calorie sweetener among consumers and consumer product companies. The percentage of beverage and food products launched containing stevia increased by 13 percent in Q2 2017 compared to Q2 2016. StarLeaf stevia will help companies accelerate launches of reduced and zero-calorie products by making available sweeteners with the most sugar-like taste derived from a plant-based source.

“We are proud to introduce stevia as a crop in North Carolina. This program will boost the economic prospects of agriculture in that state by providing a viable alternative to tobacco,” said James Foxton, Vice President of Agricultural Operations at PureCircle. “We look forward to working together with farmers in expanding stevia production and establishing a North American stevia supply chain for PureCircle.”

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