SACRAMENTO, CA--Stevia First Corp. (OTCQB: STVF) ("Stevia First" or the "Company"), an early-stage agribusiness based in California's Central Valley growing region and focused on the industrial scale production of stevia, the all-natural zero-calorie sweetener that is rapidly transforming the food and beverage industry, is pleased to announce exciting results generated from California stevia field trials, and to describe cropping system innovations designed to improve stevia agriculture in California.
Much of the stevia industry was built throughout the previous three decades, catalyzed primarily by growth in the Japanese market. Despite robust market growth in Japan and other developed nations the stevia plant remains essentially an unimproved, wild plant that is poorly adapted to modern, mechanized agricultural production systems. To address these issues Stevia First implemented field trials in California to create new knowledge and demonstrate innovative methods that will advance stevia cultivation and breeding for large-scale commercial planting and to maximize the crop's economic potential.
Stevia First has succeeded in planting, cultivating, and harvesting organic stevia in California using mechanized equipment in a commercial crop production setting. This was achieved by making novel modifications to currently available farming equipment. In addition, the Company identified and secured stevia plants that have improved glycoside profiles and that are better suited for modern mechanized production than many stevia plants commonly used by overseas commercial producers. This success was enabled by selecting plants from several distinct stevia populations that included in total more than 50,000 individual stevia plants.
The Company has identified that long-term, sustainable growth may require thousands of acres of stevia leaf production. Research shows that 2,000,000 irrigated acres in California are useful for forage crop production today. Stevia First is aiming to help convert some of this acreage to higher value stevia production. Progress in this area has been achieved through efforts such as the IR-4 herbicide trial project, which enables us to coordinate with the USDA and researchers from UC Davis and other institutions to identify and share new production techniques.
Currently, the worldwide stevia industry is largely supported by 30,000 to 50,000 acres of Chinese production. To date, large food and beverage companies have not been able to offer stevia as part of major global product launches partially due to relatively weak supply chain reliability. In addition to advancing stevia cultivation, Stevia First has adopted a novel approach to maximize agricultural yields and manage quality of commercial stevia extract production using fermentation processes. The stevia leaf contains not only Reb A, the most widely used steviol glycoside, but often 50% or more of the leaf is made up of other glycosides with inferior taste properties traditionally discarded as byproducts. Stevia First has demonstrated that its fermentation process produces enzymes that convert these "byproducts" into better-tasting and more valuable steviol glycosides. This technology could result in producing a larger quantity of high value products from smaller plant harvests, and effectively increasing overall competitiveness in the alternative sweetener sector.
Company CEO Robert Brooke comments, "We continue to approach the commercialization of stevia production from a number of angles. This field research is exciting in that it has already led to valuable tools and techniques that could increase the accessibility and profitability of stevia for U.S. growers, which helps us build steadily towards a rapid scale-up of stevia production."
Further details of the Company's business, finances, appointments and agreements can be found as part of the Company's continuous public disclosure as a reporting issuer under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission's ("SEC") EDGAR database. For more information visit: www.steviafirst.com.
About Stevia First Corp. (OTCQB: STVF)
Stevia First Corp. is seeking to establish a vertically-integrated stevia enterprise in the U.S. with expertise in stevia seed and tissue propagation, plant breeding, and cultivation. Stevia First's U.S. operations are located in the heart of California's Central Valley, one of the world's most productive agricultural regions. For more information visit: www.steviafirst.com.
About the Stevia Industry
The market for all-natural, zero-calorie stevia sweeteners is expanding rapidly. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates stevia intake could eventually replace 20-30% of all dietary sweeteners. The total global sweetener market was estimated at $58.3 billion in 2010. For more information visit: www.steviafirst.com.
Notice Regarding Forward-Looking Statements
This news release contains "forward-looking statements" as that term is defined in Section 27(a) of the United States Securities Act of 1933, as amended and Section 21(e) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. Statements in this press release which are not purely historical are forward-looking statements and include any statements regarding beliefs, plans, expectations or intentions regarding the future. Such forward-looking statements include, among other things, projections of worldwide sales of stevia products, growth of stevia production and global markets. Actual results could differ from those projected in any forward-looking statements due to numerous factors. Such factors include, among others, the inherent uncertainties associated with new projects and development stage companies. These forward-looking statements are made as of the date of this news release, and we assume no obligation to update the forward-looking statements, or to update the reasons why actual results could differ from those projected in the forward-looking statements. Although we believe that any beliefs, plans, expectations and intentions contained in this press release are reasonable, there can be no assurance that any such beliefs, plans, expectations or intentions will prove to be accurate. Investors should consult all of the information set forth herein and should also refer to the risk factors disclosure outlined in our annual report on Form 10-K for the most recent fiscal year, our quarterly reports on Form 10-Q and other periodic reports filed from time-to-time with the Securities and Exchange Commission.