Whilst the food and drink sector is a significant contributor to the economy, it has the potential to also play an important role in reducing environmental impacts. It is estimated that food and drink sector globally comprises 23% of global resource use and 18% of total greenhouse gas emissions (European Commission). A reputed study in 2012 by Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable (BIER) has also identified that the bulk of carbon emissions occur outside the gates of the drink manufacturer. As an example sugar contributes up to 55% of the non-packaging GHG impact of a carbonated soft drink in Europe and up to 32% in the United States.
Stevia – The Sustainable Sweetener
Stevia is a natural, no-calorie sweetener that provides a great tasting, mainstream replacement for caloric sweeteners. The key sweetening agents in the stevia leaf are steviol glycosides, which can be 200 to 600 times sweeter than sugar and have the potential to greatly lower environmental impacts of food and beverage products. PureCircle is pioneering the next generation of Stevia- Stevia 3.0™ – that, with its improved taste profiles, greater customer acceptance, and positive environmental and social eco-system impacts, will allow stevia to be the sustainable mass scale sweetener of choice in the 21st Century. Food and beverage manufacturers today face pressure to reduce calories; stevia can be a solution to not only reduce added sugar (and High Fructose Corn Syrup) and calories but also carbon and water footprints.
It is our vision to lead the global expansion of stevia as the next mass volume natural sweetener and encourage healthier diets through the supply of natural ingredients to the global food and beverage industry. And it is our mission to scale stevia as the next mainstream natural sweetener. PureCircle is committed to this mission and has deeply invested in all aspects of stevia from farming, extraction and purification to R&D, innovation, application support, consumer communication and advocacy.
PureCircle’s Sustainability Leadership
PureCircle’s commitment to mainstream stevia as the next natural sustainable sweetener is being made possible because of tightly controlled supply chain. Tight control has enabled PureCircle to conduct the stevia industry’s first carbon and water footprint, establish a metric to measure its calorie impacts and enable establishing a sustainable agricultural policy that is being rolled across 25,000 farmers.
The results from the company’s 2012 farm to gate carbon footprint analysis show that the weighted average carbon footprint of PureCircle Stevia was 55% lower than beet1 sugar, 79% lower than HFCS1 and 29% less than cane11 sugar in water sweetened to achieve 5% sweetness equivalence2. Many of these advantages are specific to PureCircle but the broader story around stevia is also positive.
PureCircle’s water footprint analysis done in 2011 showed that the weighted average consumptive3 farm to sweetener water footprint of PureCircle stevia was 92% lower than beet4 sugar, 94% lower than HFCS4, 96% less than cane4 sugar and 95% lower than other stevia sweeteners5 according to publically available benchmarks in water sweetened to achieve equivalent sweetness equivalence.
Helping farmers become increasingly successful by increasing yields and incomes is at the core of our business strategy. Close to 25,000 farmers across four continents are part of our supply chain. We place great importance on working very closely with them to ensure their success. This focus ranges from providing them quality seedling or cuttings, as well as materials and agronomic know-how to successfully cultivate stevia plants. We also, in many regions, guarantee incomes for farmers at the end of season to help them continue to invest and grow stevia successfully.
We have worked very closely with our farming base to establish agricultural policies and procedures that not only improve the ecosystems but also reduce environmental impact through use of organic fertilizers generated from bio waste.
Low Impact, Great Tasting Ingredients Can Make the Difference
The food and drink industry is increasingly under pressure to provide great tasting, low calorie, and environmentally friendlier options. Incorporating stevia instead of natural caloric sweeteners is one powerful way for food and beverage manufacturers to reduce their environmental impact while developing great tasting, naturally sweetened options.
Sustainability is core to PureCircle’s business practices from farm through manufacturing. As demand for commodities like sugar and corn grow due to rising incomes and growing global population, there will be added pressure on land, water, clean air, food prices, food security and food safety. The 2020 goals that PureCircle has set are an acknowledgement of these mega trends and the role PureCircle stevia grown, processed and delivered sustainably can play to positively impact the wider community, industry and planet.
Ajay Chandran is the Global Key Acccount and Corporate Sustainability Director at PureCircle and leads the company’s sustainability program, including development of its global sustainability strategy, overall company impact reporting and sustainability partnership programs. He led PureCircle’s pioneering work in developing the stevia industry’s first carbon and water footprint in 2011 and helped PureCircle formulate its 2020 Sustainability Goals.
1Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable June 2012 Study-”Research on the Carbon Footprint of Carbonated Soft Drink”
2Industry standard to measure sweetness of different sweeteners.
3Green and Blue water
4Figures are per Ercin et al in 2011 “Corporate Water footprint of Soft Drink”
5 Truvia® Sustainability Program Update 2013