Stevia First announced that it has entered into a private placement securities purchase agreement with institutional investors in the aggregate amount of $1.5 million, with Stevia First’s common stock selling at $0.30 per share. Additionally, the company will issue three series of exercisable warrants to purchase additional shares of commons stock to the investors, which can be used immediately. For a period of five years, 5,000,002 warrants will be exercisable at the price of $0.45 per share. Another 5,000,002 warrants will be exercisable for a nine-month period at $0.35 per share, and 2,500,001 warrants will be exercisable for a twelve-month period at $0.40 per share.
Pending satisfaction of the customary closing conditions, the offering is set to close on May 11, 2015. The warrants and shares were offered to accredited investors, with Stevia First agreeing to file the necessary registration statements with the SEC regarding resale of the shares and shares of common stock that may be issued if the warrants are exercised.
Located in California’s Central Valley, Stevia First has developed an innovative stevia bioprocessing technique that is projected to more than double stevia output around the world. At its research and development campus in Yuba City, CA, Stevia First continually looks for new agricultural production methods that improve the cultivation and processing of this dynamic plant. According to its website, the company is looking “to establish a vertically-integrated enterprise in the U.S. that uses technological expertise in fermentation-based stevia production and improves upon traditional stevia farming and processing methods.” In April 2015, the company’s CEO Robert Brooke participated in the Sugar Reduction 2015 panel, bringing world leaders in sugar reduction and sweetener development together to discuss burgeoning technologies and product development strategies.
Native to South America, stevia has become a popular alternative to many natural and synthetic sweeteners. Stevia has been used in many South American cultures for over 1,500 years and boasts 150 times the sweetness as of regular sugar. The plant does not contain any calories or carbohydrates, and does not impact blood glucose or insulin levels. This makes stevia an excellent option for diabetics and other individuals who are monitoring their sugar intake.
With the recent obesity and diabetes epidemics, the market for no-calorie sweeteners is increasing. One leading stevia manufacturer has estimated that stevia products may reach a global value of $10 billion or more in the next few years. In light of reports suggesting that there will be a global sugar supply shortage in the coming years, the market for sugar alternatives like stevia is an increasingly important sector. During 2010, Mintel valued the natural sweetener market was valued at $763 million, with stevia products representing $670 million of that total value. The global market for all forms of sweeteners in 2010 was estimated at approximately $58 billion.
In order to turn the plant into a viable ingredient, certain components called steviol glycosides are extracted from its leaves. This process can be completed in many ways, including steeping, drying, or crushing the leaves. The derived material must then go through a purification and crystallization process, generally using either methanol or ethanol as a solvent. Steviol glycosides in the plant are naturally occurring and easily extracted without heavy processing or the use of synthetic chemicals. As more consumers are beginning to demand natural and organically produced foods, stevia has allowed many food companies to expand their brand’s offerings without compromising taste or caloric impact. As this consumer demand continues to increase, so will the demand for stevia.
Today, stevia can be found in countless products, including chewing gum, sauces, condiments, bread, snack foods, ice cream, and soft drinks. Many companies have also developed stevia products that can be used in place of regular table sugar in recipes. Available in a granular, sugar-like form or liquid form, stevia is easy to incorporate in a wide variety of recipes.
The United States Department of Food and Drug Administration has recognized the use of some highly refined stevia products as generally safe for human consumption. As of May 4, 2015, the FDA has not approved “the use of whole-leaf stevia or crude stevia extracts” for human consumption.
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Photo courtesy of Stevia First.