Cargill, fermentation company enter sweetener agreement

by Jeff Gelski
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Cargill EverSweet
A fermentation process involving baker’s yeast creates EverSweet.

REINACH, SWITZERLAND — Cargill and Evolva, which uses fermentation to develop, make and sell ingredients, on April 3 entered into an agreement to produce and commercialize EverSweet, a sweetener now scheduled for a 2018 launch.

A fermentation process involving baker’s yeast creates EverSweet, which has high levels of the sweet-tasting steviol glycosides Rebaudioside M and Rebaudioside D. The fermentation process creates Reb M and Reb D in a more cost-effective and sustainable way than extracting them from the stevia leaf, according to Cargill.

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

Minneapolis-based Cargill originally introduced EverSweet in October of 2015 and planned to launch the sweetener for commercial use in foods and beverages in 2016. However, the commercial launch now is set for 2018.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2016 issued a “no objection” letter for the Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) status of EverSweet for use in foods and beverages.

In February of this year, Reinach-based Evolva received U.S. Patent No. 9,562,251 that covers production methods for manufacturing steviol glycosides. The patent protects methods for producing steviol glycosides for making Reb M by a number of production methods, including fermentation, bioconversion and other approaches.

Under Evolva’s new agreement with Cargill, a fermentation facility on Cargill’s Blair, Neb., campus will be retrofitted to produce EverSweet. Cargill will operate the facility, which also will be used for the fermentation of other Evolva products.

Evolva plans to build and operate a bioprocessing facility on adjacent land leased from Cargill. The facility, which is expected to come on-line in 2019, will manufacture Evolva products such as nootkatone (a citrus ingredient) and resveratrol. Evolva expects to invest about $60 million over the next three years in the combined fermentation and bioprocessing facilities for EverSweet and its other products.

Evolva had total revenues of 9.6 million Swiss francs ($9.6 million) in the fiscal year ended Dec. 31, 2016, which was down 28% from 13.4 million Swiss francs in the previous fiscal year. Evolva attributed part of the decline to the completion of Evolva’s contribution to two projects.

“Whilst 2016 was in many respects a challenging year, it also saw Evolva successfully continue its transition away from being a pure-play R.&D. company to having its own launched products, supported by capabilities in areas such as manufacturing, regulatory, application development and sales,” said Neil Goldsmith, chief executive officer of Evolva, when fiscal-year results were given March 30.
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