Stevia: Illegal if Referenced as “Sweetener,” but Money to Sunwin
Tuesday, October 9th, 2007
Shares of Sunwin International Neutraceuticals Inc. (OTCBB: SUWN) climbed 12 cents, or 21 percent today, settling at 71 cents at the market’s close. This morning the company announced its wholly-owned subsidiary Sunwin Stevia Int. Corp. received a purchase order for its OnlySweet “stevia” to be used in a line of low calorie cola, orange soda, and lemon-lime twist soft drinks.
Stevia (also called sweet leaf or sugarleaf) is a genus of about 150 species of herbs and shrubs in the sunflower family. It’s extracts have up to 300 times the sweetness of sugar, which accounts for its growing, worldwide popularity as a sugar alternative for food and beverages. Gaining momentum in the U.S., stevia is already widely used in the East.
Sunwin International engages in essential traditional Chinese medicine, 100 percent herbal medicine, neutraceutical products, animal medicine, and the aforementioned stevia. According to the company’s Web site, the China Stevioside Sugar Association (yes, there’s really a sugar association) reported that worldwide demand for stevia in 2002 exceeded 1,200 tons - China supplied more than 1,000 tons.
Nutrional beverages and other products have gained momentum as consumers seek healthier lifestyles - and Sunwin intends to capitalize on the demand. Stevia distribution and marketing comes with strings attached, however.
In 1994, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) allowed stevia to be sold legally in the U.S., but only as a “dietary supplement.”Stevia is already found in many health-food stores and in many tea products, but legally cannot be called a “sweetener.”
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), referring to the product as “sweetener” would render the product illegal, or “adulterated.”Still not approved in the U.S. as a “sweetening agent,” stevia can be sold as a dietary supplement if the label refrains from mentioning “sweet” on the label.
But this hasn’t stopped the use of stevia - and hasn’t stopped Sunwin’s distribution or stevia’s popularity.
“We have been approached by numerous companies that have expressed an interest in utilizing stevia produced by our parent company, Sunwin Neutraceuticals, as well as our blended product OnlySweet for utilization in the food and beverage industry. In the United States these products would be labeled as a dietary supplement in accordance with FDA requirements,” said Steven Silbert, executive vice president of Sunwin Stevia International Corp. said in the press release.”While our focus is on the distribution and sales growth of OnlySweet, we also understand the value of positioning our product as an ingredient in a wide variety of ‘All Natural’ dietary supplement products.
“We are currently assessing the market, as well as the companies that have approached us, to ensure that any potential strategic relationships will benefit the company and enhance our product offerings over the coming years,” added Silbert.”The recent attention regarding stevia, due to articles in several national publications, has sparked a flurry of activity which we believe will lead to significant revenue opportunities in the near future.”
Though the U.S. has put restrictions on the plant, stevia has been used for hundreds of years in parts of South America - and in Japan, stevia has been used for over 25 years. Sunwin launched OnlySweet in January 2007, and blends stevia in an FDA approved facility in the U.S., in accordance, of course, with FDA requirements. Notice that the brand name is OnlySweet - but at the far corner, the company added the disclosure “dietary supplement.
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