LAURINBURG — Scotland County-based US-Stevia is planning a $21 million farm and processing operation for the no-calorie sweetener in Cheraw, S.C.
The operation is expected to create 50 jobs, according Hal Teegarden, president of US-Stevia.
The company, which began in Laurinburg two years ago, will start the new operation by the end of the year. Hiring begins in the third quarter. Interested applicants should contact [email protected]
South Carolina will help the deal along with a $100,000 Rural Infrastructure Grant to Chesterfield County to pay for making improvements to the US-Stevia building. The project also qualifies for job-development tax credits offered by the state.
Teegarden said the production will provide opportunities for jobs seeks and farmers here and across the region.
“The location itself aligns perfectly with our crop and product expansion plans for the coming years, and we are quite excited to find ourselves in a place where we can both tap into a wealth of agribusiness resources, while at the same time adding value to those resources as we expand our operations,” Teegarden said.
The site is located at 70 Carolinas Centre Lane South in Cheraw.
US-Stevia will grow the plant, extract the sweetener and purify it.
Stevia has been cultivated in the Carolinas for at least the last five years. It has been pitched to farmers as an alternative crop to tobacco.
It is a rapidly emerging specialty crop in the United States as more companies seek improved sugar substitutes. Stevia leaves contain glycosides up to 300 times sweeter than sugar that can be extracted for use as a nonnutritive sweetener. The plant has been used in other countries for many years as an all-natural, no-calories sweetener.
The United States banned stevia usage in the early 1990s, unless labeled as a dietary supplement. But in 2008 USDA approved stevia for use as a food additive.
Since then, stevia products have mushroomed at retail outlets across the United States with such brands as Truvia, Splenda Naturals, Stevia in the Raw, Coke Life, Zevia and Bai, as well as a range of flavored waters and other products in the dairy and baked goods section in a number of stores across the U.S.
“If you walk through the grocery store, you will find stevia in all kinds of products,” Teegarden said. “It is more widely distributed than people think.”
Reach Scott Witten at 910-506-3023