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Natural sweetener producer raises $1.5m in private placement

Stevia First Crop, a California-based agricultural biotechnology firm that focuses on the industrial scale production of stevia, raised the capital to expand research and development.

Stevia First Crop, a California-based agricultural biotechnology firm that focuses on the industrial scale production of stevia, the plant-based sweetener, has raised $1.5 million from a private placement with institutional investors.

The company’s common stock was sold for $0.30 per share, according to a press release, alongside three series of immediately exercisable warrants to purchase additional shares of common stock. A total of 5,000,002 warrants will be exercisable for five years at an exercise price of $0.45 per share.

The zero-calorie sweetener producer plans to use the proceeds to expand research and development operations as well as for general corporate purposes.

HC Wainwright & Co acted as exclusive placement agent in connection with the offering, the press release said.

The total global sweetener market was estimated at $58.3 billion in 2010, according to information on Stevia’s website and the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates stevia intake could eventually replace 20 percent to 30 percent of all dietary sweeteners.

Stevia in March entered into a scientific collaboration with BioViva Sciences to advance genetic therapies for the alleviation of human diabetes and obesity. This collaboration will provide BioViva with lists of novel genes and gene combinations believed to be upstream regulators of the diseases to be used in therapies for diabetes, obesity and other metabolic disorders, according to a statement.

“As many realise, the beverage companies consume 31 percent of the US sugar supply, and Americans get nearly 50 percent of their added sugars from beverages. These companies are already turning to stevia, a unique zero calorie natural sweetener that has already been used to reformulate Sprite in the United Kingdom, reducing calories by 30 percent or more,” Robert Brooke, Stevia chief executive wrote in a CEO Report in late April. “Moreover, the beverage companies also realise more action like this is necessary, evidenced by their recent Clinton Global Initiative pledge.”

In the report, Brooke expressed his wish for people to “witness the transformative potential of sugar reduction – both personally, and alongside us on a massive global scale within the food and beverage industry.”