Rebiana stevia product
February 2 2014

Coca-Cola and Cargill are throwing their weight into the highly competitive sweetener market with a no-calorie, natural sweetener derived from the South American stevia plant. Coca-Cola has already filed 24 patents for its use in products ranging from vitamins to cereals and will have exclusive rights to develop and sell rebiana in beverages. Cargill plans to market the stevia sweetener for use in products such as yoghurt, cereals, ice cream and candy as well as tabletop use. But regulatory hurdles remain, as stevia is not approved for use as a food ingredient in the US or the European Union due to a 1985 study that indicated stevia may cause liver problems. In those jurisdictions, it only has authorisation as a dietary supplement.

This has been a gripe of the stevia industry for more than a decade but so far its efforts to gain GRAS approval have fallen on deaf US Food and Drug Administration ears. The EU has also refused to budge, citing a lack of safety data and research indicating potential fertility problems among males. Stevia suppliers hope the might of a joint Coca-Cola and Cargill regulatory and scientific submission will be able to sway the regulator and allow the natural sweetener that is 200 times sweeter than sugar to be used in foodstuffs. 

A 2006 World Health Organization report found no major toxicity risks for stevia, but called for more research into the herb's effect on hypertension and blood-sugar levels. Coca-Cola and Cargill said they will market rebiana in the 12 countries where stevia is approved as a food additive, including Japan, Brazil and China, while seeking regulatory approval in the US and the EU. They said it would take up to two years for the ingredient to fully come online as partnerships with Chinese, Paraguayan and Argentinian growers are nurtured. Coca-Cola which has spent more than a decade working on stevia said it had found a way to isolate and extract the sweetest elements of the stevia leaf and therefore overcome the slightly bitter, liquorice taste typically associated with it.

Coca-Cola didn't say which of its beverages would incorporate the sweetener, but noted Powerade in Japan had been sweetened with stevia and that the recipe for its original Coke would not be altered. James May, president and founder of stevia specialist Wisdom Natural Brands, based in Arizona, dominates US stevia sales with 80 per cent of a $16 million market.

J Food Sci. 2011. Sweetness concentration-response behavior of rebiana at room and refrigerator temperatures. Rebiana is a zero-calorie, natural, high-potency sweetener derived from Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni and comprising almost pure rebaudioside A. Reliable information on its sweetness concentration-response (C-R) behavior is fundamental to rebiana's use as an ingredient. The response curve of rebiana in room-temperature (21 C) and refrigerated (5 C) water was determined using 2-alternative forced choice discrimination tests with a minimum of 70 tasters. From a series of panels the proportion of tasters finding different sucrose concentrations sweeter than a fixed concentration of rebiana was plotted against sucrose concentration. The resultant sigmoid curves were linearized by transforming the ordinate axis to a probability scale. This aided experimental design and determination of isosweet concentrations. The latter were deemed to be the sucrose concentration at which 50% of tasters found it to be the sweeter of the pair. Isosweet concentrations of sucrose for seven rebiana concentrations up to 600 mg/L were used to construct a C-R curve for each temperature. Equations were derived for the resultant hyperbolic curves. Rebiana is significantly more potent in cold water. Rebiana is a new, zero-calorie, natural, high-potency sweetener derived from the Stevia plant. We have measured the sweetness of rebiana over a range of concentrations at room and refrigerator temperatures. This information will help developers of low-calorie products get the right sweetness level when replacing sugar with rebiana.