Their new joint venture The Natural Sweetness Company will operate in the UK, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, China and Africa and will develop products for food and drink manufacturers and retailers.
Target customers will be those selling solid foods that require bulk as well as sweetness but want to reduce calories and retain their all-important 'natural' credentials.
However, the firm will also target soft drinks makers developing ‘mid-calorie’ beverages such as Sprite Green, which contains Reb-A – PureCircle’s high-purity stevia extract - and sugar.
Stevia-based sweeteners are already approved in the US and are widely expected to be approved in Europe following a positive opinion from the European Food Safety Authority in the spring.
Unlike some other high-intensity sweeteners, Reb-A is light, heat and acid stable, which makes it ideal for acidic juice drinks and pasteurised dairy products, claims PureCircle.
However, firms in the US are chiefly embracing it because it is perceived to be more 'natural' than rival sweeteners.
Major US launches include upmarket drinks such as Vitamin Water 10 and Odwalla juices by Coca-Cola, and SoBe Lifewater and Tropicana Trop-50 by PepsiCo.
According to Mintel’s global new products database, more than 150 new products sweetened with stevia have been launched so far this year in 35 countries.
Trials and test launches
PureCircle has recently struck deals with a clutch of blue-chip firms including PepsiCo, Merisant, Danone, Unilever, Dean Foods and Kerry Ingredients.
It added: "Beyond these contracts there are a number of other arrangements that are in the final stages of negotiations with global multinational food and beverage companies, which will be announced in due course.
"Over and above the strategic contracts, PureCircle has more than 100 regional and local food and beverage invoicing customers and this list is expected to grow substantially in full-year 2011."
Stevia is now being grown for PureCircle in 15 countries in four continents.