AHPA President Michael McGuffin on the passing of James A. May

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AHPA President Michael McGuffin on the passing of James A. May

Published: Tuesday, March 7, 2017

AHPA President Michael McGuffin expressed appreciation for James May's work to promote stevia and the natural products industry.
"AHPA and its members are extremely grateful to Jim for his leadership and his many significant contributions to our herbal community, and we are saddened by his passing. Jim was a friend, and he will be greatly missed." said AHPA President Michael McGuffin. "Throughout his life, Jim demonstrated unwavering, persistent dedication to advancing all-natural stevia, working for more than 25 years to achieve regulatory approval. He has been widely lauded for his leadership in spawning a new industry. In 2011 AHPA honored him for his tireless work to promote stevia as an agricultural crop in developing countries for family farmers and as a natural sweetener that could help fight childhood obesity and diabetes."

AHPA will present a commemoration for May at AHPA's Annual Meeting and Breakfast on March 9, at Expo West in Anaheim, Calif.

Wisdom Natural Brands Reports the Passing of Founder/CEO

Natural Foods Industry Pioneer and Global Stevia Expert, James A. May, Sr., Leaves Rich Legacy

The President of Wisdom Natural Brands®, Carol May, today reported with sadness the passing of her husband, James A. May, Sr., age 80. Mr. May was the Founder/CEO of Wisdom Natural Brands, makers of SweetLeaf® Stevia Sweetener. The entire Wisdom Natural Brands executive team and employees are deeply saddened by the loss of Mr. May. Globally known as the Father of Stevia, Mr. May is widely recognized for his contributions to the natural and organic sweetener industry, including being the first to bring stevia to the U.S. in 1982.

Among his many lifetime accomplishments, Mr. May was integral in helping lift the FDA ban on importing stevia by meeting with Congress in 1994. This meeting would eventually result in DSHEA, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act. His brand, SweetLeaf, was the first stevia product to receive FDA's GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status in March 2008. Mr. May's passion and laser-focused journey to share and promote the healthful benefits of stevia have resulted in the worldwide launch of better-for-the-body sweeteners with no sugar, no calories, and no artificial ingredients. Mr. May started his business in his garage in Scottsdale, AZ and today SweetLeaf products are sold throughout North America in natural and conventional grocery stores, online retailers, and in 30 countries.

Mr. May has won many accolades for his application of the stevia plant as a nutritional supplement and a sugar alternative, including a prestigious award from the President of Paraguay. This award was a visible sign of gratitude and recognition for successfully launching stevia as a natural, zero-calorie, zero-carbohydrate sweetener. Stevia has contributed to the growth of the global sweetener market as the demand for sugar alternatives continues to grow. Latin American economies have benefited from Mr. May's contributions to the nearly billion-dollar industry.

The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) awarded Mr. May the 2011 AHPA Visionary Award. AHPA, which promotes the responsible commerce of herbal products, presented Jim with the award in recognition of unwavering, persistent dedication in the advancement of all-natural stevia. Inspired by Mr. May's perseverance during his lifetime of work bringing stevia to the United States and advancing it as a sweetener, AHPA created this award especially to honor him. Jim also received two awards for Lifetime Achievement from International Stevia organizations.

Additionally, Mr. May was presented the Visionary Leadership Award by the Specialty Food Association in 2015. The association's award honors members who have gone above and beyond in advancing food standards in society-and society itself-by creating social, economic, and environmental impact through innovation and vision.

During Natural Products Expo West 2016, he and his wife Carol were inducted into the Hall of Legends during a ceremony in Anaheim, CA. This coveted honor recognizes achievements of leaders and innovators who have made an enduring impact on the advancement of the natural products industry.

Over the past few years, the company has built the infrastructure and leadership team to continue the passionate mission Mr. May began 35 years ago. In that time, the company grew from a small Arizona business to an international company honored with the U.S. President's "E" Award for its significant contributions to the increase of U.S. exports.

For Mr. May, SweetLeaf was an important part of his belief that stevia could bring about significant changes to the way we eat and encourage a healthier relationship with food. The brand's stevia sweeteners bolster the company's stance against added/hidden sugar and artificial ingredients, and their detrimental effects on the health of Americans and people worldwide. Mr. May was truly motivated by bringing about a greater good for all and always sought to do the right thing in business and in life.

A family-owned and operated company, Wisdom Natural Brands and SweetLeaf will continue to be led by the family leadership team of President Carol May, son and COO Michael P. May, Ph.D., and the entire executive and sales teams. The company will continue to go forward with passion, courage, and commitment to make the world a sweeter place.