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Tate & Lyle to investigate sustainability of stevia supply chain
Sugar giant Tate & Lyle has launched a new scheme to investigate the environmental impact of its stevia supply chain.
Low-calorie alternatives to sugar have ballooned in popularity in recent years as a result of rising consumer interest in low-sugar diets. Stevia, the zero-calorie sweetener made from the stevia plant native to South America, is one of the most popular products on the market.
However, its production has been linked to deforestation and water pollution in Peru, and huge growth in Chinese production of the sweetener has also prompted concerns over supply chain transparency and environmental production standards.
Tate & Lyle said it is now working with its stevia grower Sweet Green Fields and environmental NGO Earthwatch to assess the sustainability of its current supply chain, with the resulting insights set to be used to "establish and spread sustainability best practice across its stevia supply chains".
"As a leading provider of stevia to the food industry, Tate & Lyle wants to ensure that using stevia in greater quantities in the future as a replacement for sugar is a responsible choice for our business, as well as a healthy choice for consumers around the world," said Abigail Storms, vice president of Tate & Lyle's sweetener platform and global platform marketing.
Most of Tate & Lyle's stevia is grown in China on a mix of small and large farms, the company confirmed. Earthwatch said a team of its scientists are already conducting "on-the-ground" research in China to assess the socio-environmental impacts of Tate & Lyle's stevia production, including analysing soil, water, waste and energy impacts.
"Stevia farming is a key economic activity in many areas in China and a rapidly growing global ingredient for sugar replacement," added Steven Loiselle, senior research manager at Earthwatch. "Our project, working with leading researchers, producers and others, shows how multi-partner collaborations can be used to promote sustainable production. By working with local scientists and experts within China we are developing new knowledge for both Tate & Lyle, the broader stevia industry and local communities."