One small early-stage company, Stevia First (STVF.OB), which is headquartered in the Central Valley region of California, is ready to give the existing players a run for their money. Stevia First is not only focused on refined product sales, but also on supplying its customers with an affordable and steady supply of stevia leaves of consistent quality. Because it is a natural product, supplying steady, consistent quality is not going to be easy to achieve; but such an achievement can provide a substantial competitive advantage. The company intends to overcome the need for continuous laboratory testing to fine tune parameters for manufacturing to compensate for inconsistent levels of Reb A. Stevia First intends to operate an integrated agri-bio business model that takes advantage of a talented pool of farmers, agronomists, and agricultural innovators based in the Central Valley region of California. Stevia First also hopes to establish biotech research partnerships with neighboring universities, which could provide access to government funding for research and development of stevia.
Stevia First has made huge progress in the implementation of its business plan by leasing 1,000 acres of land (leasing has the advantage of conserving capital). The company is building research and manufacturing facilities on the land. Stevia First is also working on multiple methods of stevia production, including farm-based stevia production and fermentation-based stevia production. Both methods are quite complex, and the production and marketing of California-based stevia products on a large commercial scale is not expected for 2 to 3 years. This is also the time frame to develop preparatory stevia plants. The company has licensed intellectual property rights from Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, and the license includes compositions and methods for preparing steviol glycosides and steviol through fermentation-based processes. There is also a separate consulting contract under which the two companies will work jointly on developing stevia.
Stevia First's business model is impressive and it has made satisfactory progress in implementing its plan so far. The company is currently trading around $0.54, between a 52-week range of $0.23 and $3.58. If you are looking to gain exposure to the huge market potential of stevia, you should certainly consider an investment in Stevia First. With a market cap of $27.7 million, it is considered a micro cap company and the risks associated with micro caps is considered to be higher. An investor must weigh the greater risk associated with the potential reward before investing in any company.