Stevia Wonder: Cargill, Evolva head for EverSweet’s commercial-scale in 2018

April 4, 2017 |

In Switzerland, Cargill and Evolva inked a major collaboration pact for the production and commercialisation of EverSweet, the next-generation stevia sweetener. This product is on track for a 2018 launch, securing its first-mover advantage.

Over the next three years, principally in 2018 and 2019, Evolva expects to invest an estimated USD 60 million in the combined fermentation and bioprocessing facilities for EverSweet and its other products. The recent CHF 30 million equity commitment from Yorkville serves as a foundation for this investment and Evolva expects to secure an additional project financing package of around CHF 30 million by end 2017, which will enable full execution of the plans.

The EverSweet backstory

The collaboration between the two companies feels as if it stretches back to the days of the Roman Empire. The joint development agreement to commercialize fermentation-based steviol glycosides dates back to early 2013 and .by September 2013, the companies were reporting that their development program for fermentation-based steviol glycosides is moving into pilot scale ahead of schedule, potentially making it available for commercialization sooner than expected.

Technical milestones that triggered further collaboration investment by Cargilll were reported in June 2014 and in December 2015.

We reported the launch of the EverSweet brand back in October 2015 —  “the great tasting, next-generation stevia sweetener” which the company co-developed with Evolva. At the time, Evolva estimated the total addressable market to be worth around $4 billion.

Cargill launches EverSweet next-gen sweetener co-developed with Evolva

Steviol glycosides are the compounds responsible for the sweet taste of stevia plant leaves.

EverSweet sweetener is made with the same sweetness found in the stevia leaf, Reb M and Reb D, and provides consumers the great taste they crave with better sweetness intensity, faster sweetness onset and improved sweetness quality – without the bitterness or off-note aftertaste common with other stevia sweeteners.  EverSweet next-generation sweetener was expected at the time to be commercially available in 2016.

Because the stevia plant produces only trace amounts of these molecules, using Reb M and Reb D to produce a sweetener hasn’t been commercially or environmentally viable until now with fermentation.

The business deal

Evolva will receive up to 30% of the EverSweet business, determined as a function of the strain efficiencies achieved. Evolva has the right to ask Cargill to support some of Evolva’s early cashflow commitments at a favourable interest rate, however under the new agreement Evolva will not receive any further milestone payments from Cargill.

Sweet Home, er, Nebraska

EverSweet next generation sweetener will initially be produced at a fermentation facility on Cargill’s Blair, Nebraska campus that will be retrofitted for this purpose. The facility will be operated by Cargill and additionally be used for the fermentation of other Evolva products. In parallel, Evolva will build and operate a new state-of-the-art bioprocessing facility on adjacent land leased from Cargill. This bioprocessing facility will manufacture Evolva products such as nootkatone and resveratrol and is expected to come online in 2019. Together, this integrated infrastructure will provide Evolva with a global hub for the production of high value specialty ingredients.

Locating these operations in Blair, Nebraska also allows Evolva to leverage and access key resources such as Cargill’s centralised infrastructure, a skilled local labour pool, and a long-term supply of renewable resources from US farm inputs (corn, in particular). A number of world-class producers like Novozymes, Corbion and Evonik operate on the same Cargill campus in Blair.

The Evolva backstory

We reported in April 2016 that Evoilva has re-focused internally on three lead products: Stevia, reveratrol and nootkatone – but that launch of the company’s EverSweet stevia product has been delayed beyond 2016.At the time we noted the company’s  positive 2015 financial results, with revenues up 25% to CHF 13.4 million and manufacturing efficiency for launched products improving by c. 50% in the last 18 months.

Meanwhile, Evolva has continued to bring forward its reveratrol development activities towards scale and at speed. We reported last month that Evolva launched Veri-te — which is the brand for its high-purity, sustainably produced resveratrol.  The weight of scientific evidence suggests that resveratrol can do for you and me what it does for plants. If you ingest the right amount, it will work at a cellular level to assist healthy aging and mimic the age decelerating results of a calorie-restricted diet. What do you get? Bone health, cardiovascular health, blood glucose control, healthy cognitive function, skin youthfulness and oral health. Basically, it’t the Fountain of Youth in a convenient powder form. More on that development here.

The Multi-Slide Guide

For a visual introduction to the company’s prospects and progress, here’s our latest Multi-Slide Guide to Evolva, here.

More than Sweets

Once completed, the Blair production facilities will play a pivotal role in accelerating the reduction of the cost-of-goods-sold for Evolva’s products, increasing the company’s long-term profitability. The facilities are expected to have sufficient capacity to generate an estimated USD 50 million-plus in annual product revenues for Evolva, over and above Evolva’s share of EverSweet profits, and provide room for further expansion.

Some stevia competitors out there

There’s been activity on the natural stevia front to improve taste and yield in the original crop. In September 2014 we reported that, S&W Seed Company had successfully crossed certain lines that have produced improved taste profiles and plant mass that the company states is previously unknown with stevia. Additionally, S&W reported that the new new stevia varieties are superior to current varieties used commercially for production of stevia sweeteners, including improved taste profile, a higher-yield and high Reb A content.

Also in September 2013 we reported that In India, Anubhav Biotech unveiled an all natural Stevia based sweetener. The purified Stevia extract based sweetener is a pioneering product produced at the largest stevioside extraction unit in the Indian subcontinent located at Sonarpur, West Bengal. The company’s R&D unit had been working on stevioside extraction technology for the last 8 years.

Reaction from the stakeholders

Evolva CEO Neil Goldsmith said, “EverSweet is coming to market, and given it succeeds as we expect it to, Evolva will see 30% of the upside whilst mitigating some of our initial cash outflows. Plus our planned US production hub, working alongside Cargill, provides the foundation for truly scaleable, low cost, high quality, production for Evolva’s other key products.”

 

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