Splenda Opens 1st Stevia Farm in U.S.

Fully integrated operation expected to decrease environmental impact
Heartland Food Products Group's stevia farm in central Florida
Photographs courtesy of Heartland Food Products Group

Low-calorie sweetener brand Splenda and its parent company, Heartland Food Products Group, recently opened the first fully integrated stevia farm in the United States.

Located in central Florida, the $50 million farm aims to produce stevia sweetener while building an emerging U.S. agriculture industry and decreasing environmental impact by eliminating unnecessary CO2 emissions caused by current global stevia supply-chain operations, the company said.

“At Splenda, our mission is to help people live happier, healthier and longer lives by making it easier to reduce sugar,” said Ted Gelov, chairman and CEO of Carmel, Indiana-based Heartland Food Products Group. “By growing higher-quality stevia plants and producing better and sweeter-tasting stevia sweeteners, we can help consumers achieve their sugar reduction goals.”

Growing stevia in the U.S. helps build a new American agriculture industry and brings more farming jobs and economic prosperity to central Florida, Gelov added.

“Until now, all stevia has been grown and processed from markets outside the U.S., mainly China,” he said. “The approach we’ve engineered with our Splenda stevia farm gives U.S. farmers an opportunity to grow and process stevia right on their own farms. Our ultimate goal is to help Americans cut unwanted sugar from their diets by 25% or more by the year 2030.”

The Splenda stevia farm management team designed the 1,465-acre farm to be eco-conscious. By growing stevia in the U.S., Splenda will reduce CO2 emissions by simplifying the existing complex and heavy transportation infrastructure, eliminating the need to transport product overseas, Heartland said. Splenda engineered socially responsible farming techniques and implemented water conservation measures and waste management, reshaping the impact stevia processing has on the environment.

Because the farm is fully, vertically integrated, Splenda can oversee every step of stevia production, from crop propagation to extraction of sweet glycosides (sugars) from the leaves, the company said.

“During the farm’s innovative process, the stevia leaves are grown from cuttings from mother plants containing the strongest agricultural properties including the sweetest and best tasting stevia,” Heartland said. “The leaves are harvested and steeped in fresh water where the sweet stevia is then extracted with the water, and filtered, providing pure stevia glycosides for use in foods and beverages.”

Ricardo Reyes, executive vice president of global manufacturing, quality and research and development at Heartland Food Products Group, said Splenda’s consistency of sweetness from acre to acre is the result of its all-natural process, without genetic engineering, that uses the propagation of mother plants with the sweetest combinations of stevia glycosides.

“Splenda has been investing in the natural breeding of stevia plants for more than 20 years, producing stevia plants with a variety of flavor profiles that can be used to develop customized sweetener blends,” he said.

Based outside of Indianapolis, Heartland Food Products Group is a global leader in the production of low-calorie sweetener products, creamers, beverage concentrates, coffee and nutritional drinks. Heartland is on a mission to help people live happier, healthier and longer lives by making it easier to reduce sugar through its low-calorie sweeteners.

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