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PureCircle Announces That It Has Begun Processing Africa And South America Sourced Leaf And Is Expanding Its Stevia Agriculture Into The USA

OAK BROOK, Ill., Aug. 2 /PRNewswire/ -- PureCircle (LSE: PURE), the world's leading producer and marketer of high purity stevia products, today announces two milestones in its global quality leaf sourcing strategy.

Proprietary High quality African and South American stevia leaf now being processed

The Company has started successfully processing leaf sourced from both Kenya and Paraguay in its stevia extract facilities in China. PureCircle's Proprietary High quality leaf planted in Africa and South America is protected through Plant Breeders Rights. The high quality proprietary leaf is performing well as expected, and is providing actual production yields significantly above those of the prevailing China market further reducing cost of SG95 and Reb A substantially.  

The processing of protected varietal leaf from Africa and South America is an important milestone in PureCircle's successful expansion and diversification of their supply chain. The early results are encouraging and underpin the Company's intentions to start constructing stevia extract facilities in both Africa and South America as soon as current capacities are beyond 50% utilization.

New USA based leaf supply partnership combined with research and varietal development

The company announces that it has entered into a five year agreement to source stevia leaf from S&W Seed Company Inc.  (NASDAQ symbol "SANW") and its subsidiary, based in Five Points, California.  This brings large scale stevia cultivation to the USA and is another milestone in PureCircle's worldwide expansion of stevia as a large volume commodity crop.  PureCircle is leading the industry in ensuring stability and sufficiency of stevia supply even with the rapid expansion of consumer products entering the marketplace.

In the US, the newly signed contract with S&W contains strong commercial incentives toward growing stevia in the continental United States on the scale required  to support major North American based food and beverage manufacturers.  The relationship with S&W will also provide support for PureCircle's recently announced research and varietal development project, in conjunction with Michigan State University, focused on the next generation of steviol glycosides beyond Reb A.

Magomet Malsagov, CEO and Managing Director of PureCircle, commented: "This is an important series of announcements for our stevia supply chain.  Our proprietary leaf from Kenya and Paraguay is performing well and underpins our plans to start building extraction capacity in Africa and South America."

The signing of the S&W agreement will bring decades of related agronomic experience to partner with PureCircle in the development of proprietary stevia varieties in North America.  Over the last twenty years, S&W has developed world leading varieties of alfalfa seed, as verified by University trials.

Grover Wickersham, Chairman of S&W Seed, Inc., said: "For 30 years, S&W has worked with California farmers to produce high quality agricultural products, while PureCircle has earned recognition as the world leader in the large scale production of Rebaudioside A (Reb A) from stevia leaf.  PureCircle and S&W have partnered to improve stevia cultivation and develop new stevia varietals. We are very excited about working with PureCircle to produce the highest quality stevia in a way that is cost effective for food and beverage manufacturers."

About Stevia

Stevia is a plant from the chrysanthemum family that originates from Paraguay in South America. It has been used as a natural sweetener and flavour enhancer for many centuries. In 2008 high purity (over 95 per cent) Rebaudioside A (Reb A), a single molecule from the Stevia plant, was granted U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) GRAS (generally regarded as safe) status for use as a sweetener ingredient in beverage and food products. EU regulatory approval is anticipated in spring 2011.  On a weight basis high purity Rebaudioside A is up to 400 times sweeter than sugar, has no calories, has a low glycemic index and is heat and pH stable.

Since FDA authorization, Stevia sweetened products have rapidly grown in demand within the United States. For example: Nielsen data for year end 2009 show Stevia sweetened products comprised 14 per cent of the USA tabletop sweetener market.   According to the Mintel GNPD database, more than 150 new products sweetened with stevia have been launched so far in 2010, in 35 countries.

About S&W Seed Company

S&W Seed Company, founded in 1980, is a leader in warm climate alfalfa seed varieties, including varieties that can thrive in poor, saline soils. The Company's claims to salt tolerance and high yield product leadership are verified by decades of university-sponsored trials. S&W owns a 40-acre alfalfa seed cleaning and processing facility. A large percentage of its sales are to Genetics International, which sells to foreign markets, principally Saudi Arabia. In fiscal 2010, the Company launched a pilot program to produce Stevia leaf, the source of an all-natural, non-caloric sweetener. For more information on S&W, please visit the Company's website at www.swseedco.com.

About PureCircle

PureCircle ( www.purecircle.com) is the global leader in the production of high purity stevia products. PureCircle is leading the industry with the development of a strong sustainable natural supply chain. Stevia is now being grown for PureCircle in 15 countries across South America, Africa, and Asia, providing a sustainable cash crop for rural farming communities in each region.

As part of its leadership of the stevia industry, PureCircle has pioneered the industry trust mark "Naturally Sweetened with Stevia by PureCircle" that educates consumers about the benefits of stevia and provides a strong basis for trust for both consumers and Food and Beverage companies alike.

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