The founder and CEO of Wisdom Natural Brands®, James A. May, senior, passed away at age 80, Carol May, president of Wisdom Natural Brands, sadly reported.
Known as the “Father of Stevia," Mr. May was the first to bring stevia to the United States in 1982 from Paraguay. He was an integral part in lifting the FDA ban on importing stevia by meeting with Congress in 1994, which would later result in the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA). His brand, SweetLeaf®, was the first stevia product to receive GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status in March 2008, allowing it to be used in food and beverage products sold in the United States.
Mr. May’s efforts to encourage stevia as an alternative to other sweeteners—such as sugar—greatly impacted the global sweetener market. The stevia market is predicted to reach US$565.2 million by 2020 globally, according to Future Market Insights, having a tremendous impact on the growth of the global sweetener market, which is projected to reach US$95.9 billion by 2020.
As recognition for Mr. May’s successes in promoting the health benefits of stevia, which has benefitted Latin American economies, the President of Paraguay in 2012, Federico Franco, honored him as a sign of gratitude for launching stevia as a natural, zero-calorie and zero-carbohydrate sweetener.
Mr. May’s application of the stevia plant as a nutritional supplement and sugar alternative has won him many other accolades. In 2011, Mr. May was awarded for his dedication in the advancement of all-natural stevia by the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) with the 2011 AHPA Award, which promotes the responsible commerce of herbal products. He was also awarded the Visionary Leadership Award by the Specialty Food Association in 2015, and was inducted in the Hall of Legends during Natural Products Expo West in 2016.
Mr. May’s company has grown from a small Arizona business to an international company honored with the U.S. President’s “E" Award for its contributions to the increase of U.S. exports. The company will continue to be headed by the family leadership team with his wife and president Carol May, son and chief operations officer Michael P. May, Ph.D., and the executive and sales teams.
“He will be missed as our business inspiration and as our family patriarch, ever guiding us to a broader and deeper view of the purpose of life," Mrs. May said. “He was indeed a visionary man who sought to make the world a sweeter place in so many ways."