Proudly local: Why staying local from the first seed to the last mile of the stevia chain matters

At SWT, we believe in helping our communities to thrive. We produce our stevia in local markets throughout the Americas, and we always ensure that our supply chains draw from local businesses.

At a time when it is more important than ever to trust your supply chain, choosing a provider who is invested in your local community is essential.

We have been growing our stevia in North America for 15 years – first in Nayarit, Mexico in 2008 and then in our North Carolina fields in 2018, meaning the healthy sweetness you enjoy in every bite is the taste of a deep commitment to our continent.

While we recognise the important role that Asia plays in the production of stevia, SWT is committed to ensuring that we play our part in developing a local stevia industry, and building local expertise here in the Americas – ensuring that business can choose to receive a local supply unaffected by the winds of global trade.

“We have a strong commitment to be the leading stevia producer in North America. This requires a strong investment in breeding, crop development and farming technologic package,” said SWT CEO Javier Sainz.

“The lack of standardized practices in stevia crop development has probably been the stronger failure on developing strong relations with farmers, and SWT is responsibly addressing this.”

When we started our business more than 15 years ago, there was a lack of real development of stevia as a commercial crop. We understood that in order to maximise the ability of this amazing plant, we needed to develop a full technical package that would show the world the power of stevia. While this development is still a work in progress, we have made huge strides in our development, and we are proud of where stevia stands today.

We are, of course, not the first to plant stevia in this region – though many of our predecessors have not been as fortunate as us. These failures can be blamed on incomplete or inconsistent commitments from other stakeholders in American agriculture, and difficulties in ensuring a sustained market for produce.

SWT has identified many of these failures, which include:

• A lack of sufficient technical tools and agricultural practices to ensure healthy and standardized plants, including pest control and harvesting.
• Insufficient site specific Stevia varieties. While stevia is an incredibly adaptable plant, they need to be adapted to latitude, rain and temperature in order to maximise output and consistency
• Mechanization of work – finding the balance between machine efficiency and human care when tending to the crop.
• A long-term, sustained market for growers, where leaves can be purchased at a fair price, with a guarantee that products will be accepted by export markets.
• A lack of import guidance for products to and from China, restricting the ability of producers to do business with the market,

Fortunately, technological and economic advancements have helped us to overcome these hurdles, and create a vibrant, modern market. SWT now supports local growers from land preparation to harvesting, creating an active market for their produce, and helping to keep business local and thriving.

We have ensured that SWT is an active part of the local industry. Having witnessed the challenges of climate change, we are committed to ensuring that we minimize our emissions as much as possible – and that means we work directly in our local markets to fight global warming and create a more sustainable world.

This has led to us winning awards – including for our circular economy approach in Chile. Working with scientists from Clemson University in North and South Carolina, we have actively involved ourselves in the improvement of stevia varieties, and in creating breeding programmes in partnerships with other leading US universities. We have worked with Israeli partners and planted in 3 regions in Mexico – making us the longest established stevia grower in the country.

We use these local partnerships to work as a key player in the sugar reduction industry, working to formulate reduced-sugar variations of massively consumed products, such as flavored milk, yoghurts and sports drinks. Our laboratories in Chile, Mexico, Chicago and Los Angeles means that we can cover key markets throughout the Americas and remain local until the final mile.

We believe that by growing, processing, and selling locally, we can lower our carbon footprint and make a positive change in the communities that support us. Switching to stevia means a 70% reduction in carbon emissions – helping you to make sustainable choices in the fight against climate change.

Of course, it’s not just a local supply chain that helps SWT remain environmentally friendly – our 100% water-processed, alcohol-free extraction system, and our commitment to 0% GMOs means that every leaf represents our dedication to remaining conscious your health and our environment.

Stevia has an incredibly high yield per hectare, meaning that we use significantly less land, water, and resources than traditional free sugars and commercial sweeteners. On a continent that is looking at increasingly serious water shortages, learning to maximise returns is essential – and stevia rebaudiana offers almost 10 times as much sweetness per hectare as the next nearest major competitor, corn – all while using 90% less water than equivalent crops.

When we think about what it means to be local, we think of the assistance we can provide, and how we can help farmers to fulfil their potential. We think about how we can help to provide the means to extract and purify extracts locally. We think about how we can create a business that does not risk international tariffs that could affect farmers.

We also think of how we can build a local knowledgebase on how to grow, process and formulate stevia to create healthy sweetness and great food. Given that 50% of Americans do not use sugar substitutes because of their taste, there is an incredible opportunity for stevia to show that it can create great-tasting, healthier food that is grown and enjoyed entirely within the same region.