STEVIA – THE PLANT
Stevia is a small shrub-like herb native to South America. The leaves of the stevia plant contain sweet compounds named steviol glycosides. Dried stevia leaves have been used to sweeten beverages (maté, teas) as well as foods for centuries. The scientific name for stevia is Stevia Rebaudiana L. Bertoni and it is a member of the largest family of plants, Asteraceae which is also called the “sunflower family”. There are 240 species of stevia, however Stevia Rebaudiana L. Bertoni is the species which represent the varieties of plants currently used to manufacture stevia extracts globally due to the high quantity and quality of glycoside content.
STEVIA – THE NATURAL SWEETENER
Stevia has rightfully been referred to as “the holy grail of sweeteners” as a result of its all-natural, no-calorie, zero glycemic load sweetening properties.
Dating back to the 1970s, stevia extracts have been approved for use in beverages and food in Japan. Over the last decade, acknowledgement from global food safety authorities, including the World Health Organization/Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (WHO/JECFA), the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and more recently the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), have removed regulatory barriers allowing global food and beverage companies to provide consumers with more healthy choices of many of their favorite products.
Stevia extract is considered to be 200 – 350 times the sweetness of sucrose. The sweetness is derived from compounds referred to as steviol glycosides that are found in the leaves of the plant. The primary sweetening molecules of stevia are called stevioside and rebaudioside A. Additional sweet compounds include steviolbioside, dulcoside A , Reb-B, Reb-C and Reb-D, Reb-F, and Rubusoside among others.
Stevia-based sweeteners are extracted from harvested stevia leaves through conventional plant extraction methods. The sweetness is released by steeping dried leaves in water, filtering and separating the liquid and further purifying the extract with food grade alcohol. SGF uses a proprietary patented natural extraction method that enables efficient production of a full spectrum of great tasting stevia based sweeteners.
In addition to stevia’s natural, zero-calorie, high intensity sweetness properties, other attributes include: heat-stable, pH-stable, non-cariogenic, low glycemic index, Kosher & Halal.
STEVIA – THE HISTORY
The commercial discovery of the sweetness of stevia is credited to Moisés Santiago Bertoni, a Swiss botanist in 1899. While conducting his plant research in Paraguay, he detected and recorded in detail the sucrose like pleasant taste of the plant. In recognition of his discovery the plant was given the name Rebaudiana Bertoni. However, it was not until 1930 that chemists were able to isolate the sweetening components of the plant, paving the way for the eventual commercial extraction of the most present and sucrose like steviol glycosides.