Tate &Lyle today revealed it has bought stevia-producer Sweet Green Fields in the latest move towards zero-calorie, aspartame-free natural sugar substitutes.
Though associated with sugar in many consumers' minds, the former FTSE-100 company - which first brought sugar cubes to Britain in 1875 - sold the last of its sugar business in 2010.
Its household name brands still seen on supermarket shelves, including Lyle's Golden Syrup and Tate & Lyle, were sold to America Sugar Refining.
The company, which bills itself as "a leading global provider of food and beverage ingredients and solutions", was the original creator of Splenda and now makes the majority of its revenues from artificial and natural alternatives to sugar.
On Tuesday the company announced the acquisition of Sweet Green Fields, which is expecting revenues of around $50million in the year to December 31, saying that the move would bring "a fully integrated stevia supply chain to Tate & Lyle".
Stevia is a sweetener derived from the incredibly sweet leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant. Its active compounds, steviol glycosides, are around 150 times sweeter than sugar.
Over the past 10 years it has grown in popularity as an alternative to chemical-based sweeteners such as aspartame, which is commonly found in products such as Diet Coke and low-calorie sweets and yogurts.
Globally, from 2015 to 2019, product launches that contain stevia grew by compound annual growth rate of 15%, according to industry data.
Tate & Lyle chief cxecutive, Nick Hampton, said: “Sweet Green Fields is an exceptional business with a leading portfolio of stevia solutions, a strong team of stevia experts and an impressive, fully-integrated supply chain.
"This acquisition supports our strategy to grow our sweetener solutions portfolio and our purpose of Improving Lives for Generations by helping us to deliver tasty food and beverages with less sugar to consumers worldwide.”
Tate & Lyle had already acquired a 15% equity holding in the company since partnering in 2017. The company said the acquisition would help it grow its presence in Asia, as Sweet Green Fields has "dedicated stevia production and research and development facilities located in Anji, China".
Sweet Green Fields chief executive, Dean Francis, said he is “proud of the leading stevia business” his team has built.