Sweeteners can be a sticky subject. Hundreds of sweetener products claim to be “all-natural,” but how do consumers differentiate between fact and fiction? There’s only one sweetener that has gone to great lengths to prove its purity: Wisdom Natural Brands® SweetLeaf Stevia® Sweetener. SweetLeaf® is the only 100%-natural, zero-calorie, zero-carbohydrate, zero-alcohol, zero-chemical, zero-glycemic index stevia sweetener available.
Bringing stevia to American tables was a long journey that has now found sweet success. It all started with one man who had a dream – Jim May, founder of Wisdom Natural Brands®.
Stevia is a naturally sweet herb native to Paraguay that has been consumed for centuries. After tasting stevia leaves given to him by a Peace Corps worker, May made it his mission to bring the extract from the deliciously sweet plant to the United States. May is considered “The Father of Stevia” in the U.S. His process involves taking the highest-quality leaves of the stevia plant and extracting their naturally sweet taste with only cool, purified water – no chemicals, solvents or additives that adulterate and cover up the great taste created by nature.
May first traveled to Paraguay to import stevia in 1982. However, just months after his return, the FDA began receiving pressure from other competing artificial sweetener companies and reversed its approval of stevia, banning it from being imported to the U.S.
For years, May fought the FDA to no avail, but in 1994, a breakthrough was made. Congress approved the Dietary Supplement Health & Education Act (DSHEA), which defined dietary supplements as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, herbs and botanical extracts and derivatives, including stevia.
Though this was a huge win for both May and the stevia industry, DSHEA did have its limitations. May was not permitted to tell consumers what stevia tasted like, so he decided to show the consumer instead. In Paraguay, stevia is known as Ka’a He’ê, meaning “sweet herb” and from that name, SweetLeaf Stevia® was born. Staying within the DSHEA federal guidelines, May depicted a SweetLeaf Stevia® packet being poured into a cup of coffee on his packaging, illustrating to consumers how to use his product.
May’s most satisfying victory came in 2008, when GRAS Associates, an independent panel of scientists, awarded SweetLeaf Stevia® GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status, pursuant to FDA regulations. This allowed SweetLeaf® to be labeled a sweetener. SweetLeaf® could finally use the word “sweet” to describe its product, and so it became SweetLeaf Stevia® Sweetener, as it is known today.
FDA regulations allow companies to independently determine, through a self-affirmation process, that an ingredient is generally recognized as safe by qualified food science experts. To prove the point even further, Wisdom obtained a concurring opinion from the Life Science Research Office, who independently agreed with GRAS Associates’ original findings. The FDA granted a no-questions letter to SweetLeaf®’s GRAS status in 2009, validating all of the hard work that May had done.
Wisdom Natural Brands® is now the leading U.S. manufacturer of stevia products and offers SweetLeaf Stevia® Sweetener in convenient double-serving packets. SweetLeaf Stevia® Sweetener is sold in boxes containing either 50 or 100 packets of stevia. Each packet replaces two teaspoons of sugar. SweetLeaf® is also sold in the SweetLeaf Stevia Plus® Shaker Bottle for easy home use and SweetLeaf Sweetener® Stevia Tabs Dissolvable Tablets for easy on-the-go use.
Today, Jim May is a leading expert on stevia and travels across the Americas promoting the benefits of the stevia plant.