Sweegen expands signature stevia footprint in Mexico

Sweegen’s entire Signature Bestevia portfolio of nature-based sweeteners and sweetener systems will be accessible to brands in Mexico after the country’s food safety authority has adopted the Codex Alimentarius (Codex) specifications for steviol glycosides produced by different technologies. This includes Sweegen’s bioconversion method for producing clean and non-GMO stevia sweeteners, such as rebaudiosides B, D, E, I, M, and N. Codex is the international food safety organisation under the auspices of the World Health Organization (WHO).

“Mexico’s Codex adoption is a step in the right direction for tackling obesity and diabetes in adults and children stemming from high sugar in products,” said Luca Giannone, senior vice president of global sales. “Streamlining the regulatory process for introducing new generation zero-calorie stevia sweeteners contributes to the improvement of overall health and wellness for consumers.”

Giannone further said: “We are eager to share with brands in Mexico our expertise and high-quality ingredients for creating great-tasting, better-for-you product innovations. Our robust portfolio of signature sweeteners and sweetener systems featuring our proprietary Bestevia products is unparalleled; it demonstrates our commitment to investing in new technologies for offering the very best natural sweeteners to brands for tackling the challenges of sugar reduction and replacement in the formulation of food and beverages.”

Adopting the rigorous Codex framework for stevia technologies provided a streamlined approach for reviewing and approving Sweegen’s clean and sustainable bioconversion process. This approval by Mexico will provide greater access to less common and better-tasting steviol glycosides at scale and a more sustainable supply of zero-calorie ingredients with a taste closest to sugar.

Before the adoption, Sweegen’s rebaudiosides M and D were approved in Mexico through the standard regulatory process. The new regulatory development opens doors for Sweegen to introduce unique Signature sweetener systems to brands, in addition to its rebs D and M, further expanding product developers’ sugar reduction toolkits.

“With more sugar reduction tools for brands to explore, they can rapidly develop great-tasting and healthy food and beverages, sparking and inspiring new innovations and product launches,” said Giannone.

Sweegen’s LATAM Innovation Studio is located in Mexico City and serves the entire region. It is one of many global creative centers home to product developers exploring sweet taste solutions, local consumer insights, and collaborating on new or reformulated products with Sweegen’s expert food and applications team.

“The Codex framework sets a good regulatory example on welcoming better ingredients for supporting health and wellness,” said Hadi Omrani, senior director of technical and regulatory affairs. “As more countries follow suit, Sweegen’s global stevia footprint will rapidly expand into more countries, providing brands better options in sugar reduction solutions where they are under government pressure, like Mexico, to produce healthy food and beverages.”

Obesity, diabetes, and associated diseases are prevalent in Mexico and are leading public health concerns. Adult obesity increased by 42.2% from 2000 to 2018. Childhood obesity is linked to high sugar consumption and saturated fats. In 2016, Mexico declared an epidemiological alert as a result of high rates of diabetes and obesity after a WHO report published in 2015 raised awareness on serious health issues and supported Mexico’s sugar tax on all nonalcoholic beverages with added sugar in 2014. UNICEF reports that Mexico is the largest consumer of ultra-processed products, including sugary drinks, in Latin American countries. And one-third of children in Mexico are overweight or obese.

Mexico’s beverage sugar tax resulted in fewer people buying soft drinks, with an overall decline of just 7.6%.

“Behavioral conditioning through a beverage tax only goes so far,” said Giannone. “Introducing better ingredients into the food and beverage space can breathe new life into product offerings and stimulate new trends, such as plant-based products or functional beverages.”

In 2020, food and beverage producers in Mexico felt more pressure by a government mandate to present new front-of-package labels warning consumers of excess calories, sugar, sodium, saturated fats, and trans-fats, as well as caffeine and artificial sweeteners.

With the Codex adoption, brands have new opportunities to connect with consumers by delivering a full sugar-like taste in food and beverages without the calories. This would be a significant advancement from several years ago when the first generation of stevia was introduced.

Unlike first-generation stevia sweeteners like rebaudioside A, new generation rebaudiosides made by bioconversion produce clean new generation sweetener molecules like rebaudiosides B, D, E, I, M, and N, which are originally found in small quantities in the stevia leaf. They impart a clean sugar-like taste with a better sensory profile and are highly sought-after by food and beverage manufacturers in countries with regulatory approvals.

“Brands in Mexico can look to Sweegen as a resource of expertise and as a committed partner for creating zero to low-calorie new product innovations that will delight consumers while supporting the country’s journey on health and wellness goals,” said Steven Chen, Sweegen’s chief executive officer. “We commend the food and safety authorities in Mexico for demonstrating leadership by taking action on adopting the Codex specification.”