About the project
Holistic approach along the production cycle of Stevia Rebaudiana plant cultivated in Greece, via combined application of innovative methods of Precision Agriculture and bitter aftertaste removal techniques.
The objective of the proposed project is to optimize and consequently to promote the sensory characteristics of Greek stevia by removing or covering the bitter and metallic aftertaste. This will be achieved by intervening throughout the cultivation cycle, the post-harvest treatment, the processing of stevia for the production of raw materials (sweeteners) with excellent taste, to the development of new or improved food products, with innovative methods aiming at improving the quality of life through the reduction of sugar intake. The holistic approach at all the stages of agri-food chain of sweeteners production from stevia plant (steviol glycosides) is crucial for the in-depth investigation and afterwards the improvement of bitter-metal aftertaste.
The development and application of innovative technologies in the agri-food sector, as well as the improvement of isolation and processing of stevia leaf extracts techniques, which will lead to the production of sweet powder or liquid to be used as a ready-to-use sweetener, will contribute to the dynamic introduction of Greece into the International stevia sweetener market, combining domestic stevia leaf cultivation with the ability to place the final product on the market with outstanding sensory properties. The development of innovative products based on steviol glycosides will benefit human health, contributing to the reduction of obesity and diabetes. Finally, it will benefit socially, environmentally and economically not only the participating institutions and the company, but also the Greek society.
The coordinator of the project is YIOTIS company. CERTH and IMBB-BR are the two research institutions that participate in the consortium.
Specific objectives are:
- Optimization of cultivation using innovative precision agriculture applications, to optimize the concentration and quality of glycosides.
- Recovery of glycosides through green extraction methods (microwaves, ultrasound, extraction in the presence of enzymes) and their isolation at high purity.
- Promotion of stevia sweeteners by covering or removing their bitter and metallic aftertaste through innovative encapsulation methods (electrospraying method), enzymatic transglycosylation and use of membranes.
- Use of improved steviol glycosides for the development of new or improved food products (refrigerated chocolate cream, refrigerated rice paddy) without addition of sugar, and sweeteners.
- Evaluation of the biological activity of steviol glycosides isolated from plant extract through in vitro studies (anti-cancer, intestinal barrier effect, drug interaction).
- Techno-economic analysis and evaluation of the environmental footprint of processes and products through Life Cycle Analysis Methodology.
This project focuses on the holistic exploitation of stevia plant, targeting to the development of the innovative products with excellent organoleptic and nutritional characteristics as well as to the improvement of the environmental impact and production processes. The project will offer solutions through the:
- Optimization of cultivation practices (“Precision Agriculture”) and stevia drying.
- Development of green extraction and isolation technologies for high purity glycosides.
- Development of an analysis method for the stevia extract.
- Techniques of encapsulation, enzymatic treatment and membranes to remove bitter aftertaste.
- Development of low-calorie products based on the isolated steviol glycosides.
- Assessment of the environmental impact of production processes and end products.
The Food Industry, together with Primary Production, are the most important sectors of the domestic economy, both in terms of GDP, employment and exports. These companies base their success and future on the quality and safety of their products and on meeting the needs of the modern consumer. The overall benefits are:
- Increase of the competitiveness of the Food Industry and Rural Sector by producing higher quality functional products.
- Increase of the productivity in the agricultural sector through the application of best practices in cultivation. New jobs from the production of high value-added products.
- Strengthening of their export activity.
- Strengthening of their R&D activities.
In addition to the obvious benefits for project partners and industry there are significant benefits for Greek society too. More specifically:
- The improved organoleptic properties of the products produced will lead to increased consumption of low-calorie sweeteners by reducing obesity rates and addressing serious health problems such as diabetes and heart disease.
Consumption of functional foods with proven therapeutic actions and enhancement of the consumers’ confidence in the food chain.