SACRAMENTO, CA--(Marketwire -08/29/12)- Stevia First Corp. (STVF) ("Stevia First" or the "Company"), an early-stage agribusiness based in California's Central Valley growing region and focused on the industrial scale production of stevia, the all-natural zero-calorie sweetener that is rapidly transforming the food and beverage industry, is pleased to advise that the Company has entered into an exclusive and worldwide intellectual property license with the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre ("Vineland") of Ontario, Canada (www.vinelandresearch.com).
The license encompasses compositions and methods for producing steviol and steviol glycosides through fermentation-based production methods. In addition to the license, Stevia First has entered into a separate consulting agreement with Vineland to assist with further development of the underlying intellectual property.
Today, production of stevia extract involves a complex agricultural supply chain servicing a sector that includes approximately 75,000 acres of stevia plant reportedly being grown overseas in 2010. It is currently estimated that 70% or more of the cost of stevia extract is directly attributable to the cost of stevia leaf production. Because the stevia leaf contains small quantities of the most desirable sweet components, complex extraction and purification processes must be used, adding to the cost, and yet still, many stevia extracts today do not meet the standards for taste and consistency that consumers demand.
Canadian researchers at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) were among the first to discover and characterize the natural biochemical pathways that are involved in the production of the sweet components of the stevia leaf. Using this knowledge, it has become possible to produce stevia extract through fermentation-based technologies. These methods are capable of converting low-cost plant materials into sweet steviol glycosides through controlled fermentation methods, a process that could bypass or significantly diminish the need for stevia leaf production. Vineland currently controls intellectual property related to this technology.
Through a worldwide license to Stevia First by Vineland, the Company will have exclusive rights to an intellectual property portfolio derived from a patent titled, "Compositions and methods for producing steviol and steviol glycosides." Stevia First is commencing fermentation-based stevia development efforts at its Yuba City, CA facility, which first involve process optimization studies and completion of pilot-scale stevia extract production.
Dr. Jim Brandle, CEO of Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, states that, "We're very pleased to move this technology closer to the market via this license with Stevia First. In addition to advancing this technology, this partnership will enable Vineland to make further investments in horticultural research." Stevia First Corp.'s CEO, Robert Brooke, adds that, "In the stevia industry, which has grown tremendously over the past several years, there is still significant unmet demand from multinational companies for a supply chain that can consistently produce great-tasting stevia extract in large quantities. The technology we've licensed represents a potential solution for this need, and one that our scientific team is eager to commercialize."
About Stevia First Corp. (STVF)
Stevia First Corp. is seeking to establish a vertically-integrated stevia enterprise in the U.S. with expertise in stevia seed and tissue propagation, plant breeding, and cultivation. Stevia First's U.S. operations are located in the heart of California's Central Valley, one of the world's most productive agricultural regions. For more information visit: www.steviafirst.com.
About Vineland Research and Innovation Centre
Vineland Research and Innovation Centre is a world-class research center dedicated to horticultural science and innovation. Located in Canada's Niagara Region, Vineland's mission is to deliver innovative product and production solutions that address the needs of the horticulture industry and advance Canada's research and commercialization agenda. Vineland is an independent, not-for-profit organization, funded in part by Growing Forward, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.
About the Stevia Industry
The market for all-natural, zero-calorie stevia sweeteners is expanding rapidly. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates stevia intake could eventually replace 20-30% of all dietary sweeteners. The total global sweetener market was estimated at $58.3 billion in 2010. For more information visit: www.steviafirst.com.
Notice Regarding Forward-Looking Statements
This news release contains "forward-looking statements" as that term is defined in Section 27(a) of the United States Securities Act of 1933, as amended and Section 21(e) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. Statements in this press release which are not purely historical are forward-looking statements and include any statements regarding beliefs, plans, expectations or intentions regarding the future. Such forward-looking statements include, among other things, projections of worldwide sales of stevia products, growth of stevia production and global markets. Actual results could differ from those projected in any forward-looking statements due to numerous factors. Such factors include, among others, the inherent uncertainties associated with new projects and development stage companies. These forward-looking statements are made as of the date of this news release, and we assume no obligation to update the forward-looking statements, or to update the reasons why actual results could differ from those projected in the forward-looking statements. Although we believe that any beliefs, plans, expectations and intentions contained in this press release are reasonable, there can be no assurance that any such beliefs, plans, expectations or intentions will prove to be accurate. Investors should consult all of the information set forth herein and should also refer to the risk factors disclosure outlined in our annual report on Form 10-K for the most recent fiscal year, our quarterly reports on Form 10-Q and other periodic reports filed from time-to-time with the Securities and Exchange Commission.