Transparency is at the heart of two new initiatives from Cargill, a comprehensive Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) of EverSweet® stevia sweetener by Avansya and a first-of-its-kind look inside the company’s leaf-based stevia sustainability efforts.

To complete the LCA, Cargill and joint venture partner DSM compared the environmental impact of their ground-breaking EverSweet sweetener to other stevia-based solutions, as well as conventional sugar. The third-party-verified LCA study found EverSweet offers significant environmental advantages over other sweetener choices.

The difference lies in EverSweet’s unique origin story. Stevia leaves contain dozens of sweet components. However, two of the best-tasting, Reb M and Reb D, comprise less than 1% of the stevia leaf. Cargill and DSM pioneered an innovative and more sustainable approach, using fermentation to produce EverSweet, a Reb M and Reb D stevia sweetener, with less water, less land and a smaller carbon footprint. 

As part of the LCA review, Cargill and DSM compared EverSweet to three production pathways: leaf-based Reb A, leaf-based Reb M, Reb M produced through bioconversion*, and for benchmarking purposes, beet sugar and cane sugar. EverSweet significantly outperformed the other sweeteners. 

Not surprisingly, leaf-based Reb M was the least sustainable approach. Reb M occurs in extremely low concentrations in stevia leaves, requiring 70 times more stevia leaves than leaf-sourced Reb A. While Reb M produced through bioconversion scored somewhat better, fermentation-sourced EverSweet was the clear winner. When compared to the bioconverted Reb M, EverSweet:

• Produces 60% lower carbon footprint.
• Requires 70% less land.

Results in 60% lower ecological footprint, delivering additional benefits related to land use, including biodiversity, ecosystems impact, and reduced need for water for irrigation.

These reductions result in meaningful environmental benefits. The greenhouse gas emissions saved by using just one ton of EverSweet (enough to sweeten 7.5 million cans of 12oz soda) is equivalent to 311,000 miles driven by the average passenger car or charging more than 15 million smartphones, when compared to bioconverted Reb M.

Sustainable, Transparent Sourcing Extends to Leaf-based Stevia
The LCA is part of Cargill’s ongoing effort to provide greater transparency into its stevia sustainability efforts. Concurrent with its release, the company is launching a new Virtual Stevia Harvest Experience, which showcases the company’s longstanding sustainability standard that helps ensure responsible, ethical sourcing for its leaf-based offerings. 

The virtual experience walks through each stage of the company’s leaf-based stevia production process, from greenhouse to manufacturing facility. It highlights Cargill’s best-in-class agricultural and manufacturing standards, which are designed to minimize the environmental impact of production practices, as well as help ensure worker safety and welfare, and prevent forced, convict or child labor. 

Traceability is key to these efforts, as every lot of the company’s stevia can be traced back through its supply chain to the farmers and cooperative who planted the crop. Not every major stevia supplier offers this level of field-to-finished product traceability. The virtual tour also outlines the company’s stringent testing protocols, which begin while plants are still in the field. These production specifications, combined with rigorous validation processes during manufacturing, ensure product consistency from lot to lot -- another point of differentiation.