US agribusiness giant Cargill has teamed up with Associated British Foods (ABF) for the UK launch of a table-top sweetener made with stevia, should the EU clear the natural ingredient for use.

Cargill and ABF’s retail sugar business Silver Spoon have drawn up plans to launch Truvia, which is already on sale in the US, in the UK if regulatory approval for products made with stevia is given by the EU.

The use of stevia, a zero-calorie, natural sweetener, in food and drink products has grown in the US since Washington gave the ingredient the all-clear in 2008. Table-top sweetener products, like Cargill’s Truvia, have appeared on the market and earned initial success. Cargill says Truvia is now the third best-selling non-sugar sweetener in the US.

The EU has yet to give the green light to stevia although France has been allowed to clear the ingredient for use on a temporary basis for two years. That has led to some product launches including Fanta Still, which Coca-Cola Co. introduced with the use of Cargill’s Truvia rebiana stevia sweetener.

Cargill believes the EU will wave through stevia later this year or in the first quarter of 2012 and is lining up the launch of Truvia table-top sweetener in selected markets, including the UK.

Cargill and ABF said today (26 January) that the “combined strengths” of Truvia and Silver Spoon’s “extensive retail knowledge and marketing expertise” are expected to lead to the table-top sweetener “quickly capturing” consumer interest in the UK.

Both sides will market Truvia in the UK through advertising and “in-store programmes”. The Truvia and Silver Spoon logos will both appear on packaging.

Silver Spoon marketing director Tony Lucas said: “The introduction of stevia-based sweeteners to the UK market will be one of the most significant category developments in this country in years. As the number one supplier to the UK retail sugar and sweetener market, we are excited to bring this new innovation to our retailers and UK consumers. The partnership with Cargill and the Truvia brand will help us achieve this goal.”

Zanna McFerson, director of Cargill’s Truvia business unit, said the company’s partnership with Silver Spoon was “a significant and exciting milestone in anticipation of the European market entry of Truvia”.