- Ingredients company Tate & Lyle fully acquired stevia producer Sweet Green Fields this week. Tate & Lyle has a history with the stevia producer. It first entered a distribution agreement with Sweet Green Fields in 2017, and then took a minority stake in the company in 2018. Terms of the sale were not disclosed.
- Sweet Green Fields is expected to make $50 million in revenue in 2020. Tate & Lyle said in a statement the acquisition simplifies its relationship with Sweet Green Fields by allowing the company to create a fully integrated supply chain, unite both entities' R&D, optimize production and accelerate innovation.
- Stevia remains a top product in the alternative sweeteners category. Mintel data cited by Tate & Lyle said product launches containing stevia had a compound annual growth rate of 15% between 2015 and 2019.
In 2018 alone, the number of product launches with stevia increased 31% from the year before. Part of this stems from increasing consumer demand for cleaner labels and lower sugar formulations. Updates to the Nutrition Facts panel have also brought closer attention to sugar in packaged goods, a spotlight spurring manufacturers to look to nature for sweet alternatives.
London-based Tate & Lyle, which is well known for its sweeteners, has already dabbled successfully in stevia. Its Tasteva product features steviol glycoside Reb M, but this acquisition gives the company a wider array of offerings, which it can use to capture a larger share of a market that continues to expand and bolster its bottom line. Even without the full ownership of Sweet Green Fields, Tate & Lyle’s stevia revenues grew by 23% during the 12 months ending March 31, the company said in its statement.
With changing market dynamics around sugar, Tate & Lyle is not the only company that has seen stevia as an acquisition target as well as an avenue for growth. This year alone, Ingredion acquired PureCircle, Splenda owner Heartland Food Products Group began soliciting U.S. farmers to grow stevia and SweeGen added Bestevia Reb I, a high purity, clean label stevia to its portfolio.
But while stevia is one of the hottest sugar replacement solutions on the market, it is not without its downsides.
Stevia has been known to have a bitter aftertaste, but companies like Sweet Green Fields, PureCircle, Pyure and Apura Ingredients have been making extracts from glycosides found in the stevia leaf that eliminate and minimize this off flavor. The result is that the category is becoming both competitive and popular.
For Sweet Green Fields, having a deep-pocketed owner with a far-reaching distribution network will be valuable in an increasingly competitive stevia and sweetener space. The U.S. company extends Tate & Lyle’s presence in the Asia Pacific region with its dedicated stevia production and research and development facilities located in Anji, China.
Although the Sweet Green Fields already works on leaf sourcing and varietal development, its new attachment to Tate & Lyle presents an opportunity to increase funding in these areas — and perhaps further develop new stevia sweeteners that can cater to a wider audience through even more niche offerings.