Health E-Insights: Do you sometimes think you owe it all to Coke and Cargill for their role in seeking stevia GRAS certification?
Mr. May: No; that would be a gross over-simplification of a complex series of events involving a particular sphere of corporate and political influence within FDA. SweetLeaf Stevia was the top-selling stevia product in the U.S. when Coca-Cola and Cargill announced in 2007 they would be the first companies to have a GRAS stevia product. At that time, I had been involved in the stevia industry for 25 years and had 80% of the $16 million American stevia market. We received GRAS notifications on March 5, 2008. I made the public announcement on June 3, 2008 that SweetLeaf was the first stevia product in America to achieve GRAS status. For your information, I hired two independent science organizations to review all of the data. Both determined that SweetLeaf Stevia was GRAS. Coca-Cola and Cargill’s stevia product is Rebiana, which is markedly different from SweetLeaf Stevia sweetener. Rebiana is the trade name for their product, which focuses solely on a single glycoside extract. We use a blend of four glycosides to produce SweetLeaf Stevia sweetener, which offers a much more desirable taste profile.
Health E-Insights: How do you feel when people refer to you as “The Father of Stevia?’
Mr. May: I am pleased. Many people seem to recognize my 29 years of effort in bringing stevia to America and making it available to the public. I have always believed that stevia has the potential to bring significant change to the world, from the farmers to the consumer’s table.
Health E-Insights: What do you think will be the next great stevia product to be introduced in the marketplace?
Mr. May: There will be several great products to be introduced soon to the marketplace. Worldwide, consumers are looking for products that contain a sweetener that not only does no harm to the human body, but also generates better health and well-being. Stevia is the only sweetener in the world that can fulfill this desire.
Health E-Insights: How does your business give back to the community or to society?
Mr. May: SweetLeaf Stevia sweetener has made similar contributions to diabetes awareness through a co-sponsorship of the WiL Power (Winning in Losing) Challenge, a non-profit, three-month program created by Foothills Sports Medicine & Rehabilitation to help overweight and obese children learn to live physically active lives and develop healthy eating habits. Also, this December marks the second year SweetLeaf will co-sponsor the Children’s Obesity Conference presented by the Worthy Institute and First Things First Arizona in Phoenix. The conference attracted more than 100 varied professionals and organizations that address children’s health needs across Arizona. All of these commitments represent the company’s dedication to creating diabetes awareness through healthy living at all ages.
Health E-Insights: Who or what had the biggest influence on you?
Mr. May: Being involved in dialysis transplantation made a huge impact on me, seeing terrible health problems that people experienced. Finding herbs in Paraguay including stevia that actually healed people and improved health and well-being is what motivated me to fight the battle to make stevia available to all Americans.
Health E-Insights: What would you like to accomplish within the next five years?
Mr. May: I would like to see high quality stevia as a major sweetener in food and beverages worldwide. That will help solve obesity and diabetes problems.
For more information and interview consideration, contact Sheldon Baker at email@example.com or visit his website at www.bakerdillon.com. And check out his blog at www.NutraInk.com.