What happens when a man of modern healthcare meets the holistic healing wisdom of an ancient people? In the case of James A. May, a former healthcare executive, the meeting forever changed his life—both personally and professionally. Mr. May founded Wisdom Natural Brands®, parent company of SweetLeaf Stevia Sweetener and Wisdom of the Ancients® herbal teas.
Wisdom Natural Brands (WNB) is a leading U.S. manufacturer of stevia and offers a full line of SweetLeaf Stevia Sweetener products, available in convenient single-serving packets, liquids, powder, tabs, and concentrate, including the best-selling SweetLeaf Stevia and Organic Stevia Sweeteners, SweetLeaf® Sweet Drops™ Liquid Stevia, and SweetLeaf Water Drops™. WNB has introduced millions of people to the great-tasting, better-for-you sweetness of stevia.
Our Sweet Story
SweetLeaf was launched in 1981 when my late husband, James A. May Sr., was introduced to the stevia leaf in Paraguay and began to dream of a world where sugar could be naturally replaced. This was no small dream, but like all dreamers Jim believed anything was possible. Looking back now, I realize he was right.
Jim was working in healthcare and I was home with our five young children when the stevia leaf called Jim to a greater mission in life. A Peace Corps worker who just returned from Paraguay persuaded Jim to taste a stevia leaf and enjoy its sweet, delicate taste. It was that moment when our lives and destiny were changed forever.
We believed so much in this small sweet leaf, that we sold all our worldly belongings, except our home and one car, and tucked away a very small amount of money to barely sustain our family. Friends and family thought we were crazy! Thinking back, it sounds so impulsive now, but my husband was persuasive and he truly believed this leaf could change people’s lives for the better. We didn’t have any income for three years. That’s right. Zero. It was risky, but we believed we were meant to introduce the world to this sweet herb which has so many incredible benefits to the human body.
In the ‘80s, Americans were searching for a safe alternative to sugar. Both Jim and I became true believers in this critical need. We knew stevia was a better alternative to diets high in sugars and artificial sweeteners—and it simply tasted great! We began working to create a formula which could be used as an alternative, but wanted to make sure it contained no artificial ingredients. This was no easy task.
Whoever said patience is a virtue was right. It has been a road filled with many twists and turns. We started by packaging and labeling the herbs in our garage with the help of our young children. Our son Michael, now the President of our company, remembers those days well. Jim persuaded local health food stores to carry our new stevia products by taking stevia, yerba maté, and other herbs to stores and distributors in the back of our car.
Later, the FDA wanted to ban stevia from coming into the U.S. It was as if all the walls were closing in and this dream of Jim’s was turning into more of a nightmare. Still, we kept putting one foot forward and with the help of our congressional delegates, we were the first company to earn the FDA GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) designation in 2008. This made our product a food which could be called a sweetener in the United States, rather than a dietary supplement. It was exactly what we needed and we celebrated by working harder and continuing to grow. Today, you will see sweetener product aisles in natural and mainstream grocery stores worldwide carrying our products. I still walk by when shopping and smile thinking of the path it took to get here.
The past few years have marked a major shift in attitudes toward added sugars and how they impact the health of Americans. The American Heart Association, USDA, FDA, and the World Health Organization recommend reductions in the amount of added sugars consumed by the average person. These efforts highlight the connection between dietary choices and chronic disorders, including diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. There have been thousands of papers written about the safety and benefits of stevia and there are millions of users who experience the health-promoting benefits every day.
Our dream of making the world a sweeter place has become a reality. We cherish our relationship with you. We cherish our relationships with doctors and other healthcare professionals providing a better solution to their patients for reducing added sugars in their diets. Our 35-year journey reminds me very much of the Robert Frost poem, The Road Not Taken. “Two roads diverged in a wood and I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” We are grateful and ever so thankful to all of our customers for journeying with us on a road that will continue to make a meaningful difference in the lives of countless people seeking a better-for-you answer to harmful excess sugars while maintaining a heightened quality of life.
Carol May, CEO