Philippines’ 1st Stevia Grower Empowers Farmers and Advocates for Diabetes Awareness


We rarely come across companies that put advocacy and employee empowerment at the center of their corporate mission, but Glorious Industrial and Development Corporation — GIDC, the Stevia Company, is setting the model. As the first stevia grower and manufacturer in the Philippines, GIDC harvests and markets the Sweet and Fit Stevia, the foremost stevia herbal dietary supplement registered by the Food and Drug Administration in the Philippines, as its main weapon in leading the charge against diabetes.  Grown and harvested in the Philippines exclusively by GIDC, Sweet and Fit Stevia is free of calories, cholesterol, carbohydrates, and has zero glycemic index.

Koryn Iledan
Visitors can enjoy a Stevia leaf picking activity at this 2-hectare Stevia Demo Farm

When asked about how important Stevia as the main component to their products, Maura De Leon, the woman behind GIDC said “Stevia has been touted as a safe and healthy sugar substitute with proven health benefits. It can sweeten foods, and it has several health benefits, including decreased calorie intake, lower blood sugar levels, and less risk of cavities,”

Why Battle Diabetes

Aside from the fact that Filipinos are known to have a sweet tooth, we also live by the credo of "rice is life". However, our sugary cravings combined with our love for eating rice also increases our risk of developing diabetes. to the point that it has become one of the leading causes of deaths in the Philippines.

Muffet Sta Maria
Baby Stevias are first grown in greenhouses before it gets re-potted into the farm

According to a recent study released by the World Health Organization (WHO), there are more than 422 million diabetics worldwide, most of whom reside in low to middle-income countries, and diabetes is responsible for 1.5 million deaths each year. What’s more troubling to learn is that the number of cases and prevalence of diabetes have steadily increased over the past few decades.

Moha Barakat
GIDC's flagship product, the Sweet and Fit

Philippine Statistics Authority data shows an annual increase of 7.8% in diabetes cases among Filipinos in 2020. If this worrisome trend continues, more Filipinos will suffer from the disease.

Katrina Arceta

In today's market, Stevia is becoming increasingly popular as a sugar substitute as consumers seek healthier options. “Stevia can replace sugar used in baking, beverages, cooking, and almost anything, a natural alternative that can significantly cut sugar in one’s diet,” shared Michelle De Leon, GIDC head of Operations.

Karla Obispo
The many products of GIDC

Unbeknownst to most, Stevia is already an active ingredient in more than 5,000 food and beverage products around the world. It’s only a matter of time before consumers fully embrace the consumption of this healthy and natural sweetener. How to make it possible in the immediate future? Plant and grow more Stevia. And that’s what GIDC is doing right now.

Cultivating a land for Stevia Farming in Bulacan

The GIDC journey began with their Sweet and Fit farm in Bocaue, Bulacan in 2004. They first started by setting up a 2-hectare demonstration farm where they studied agricultural components and technical aspects of planting and harvesting the Stevia plant. It was a learning process that lasted several years until they mastered every bit of the plant’s agronomic cycle.

Mujee Gonzales and Astrid Alvarez

Today, Sweet and Fit Farm maintains several stevia plantations in different locations around Bulacan, as well as offering stevia-containing products including no sugar added coffee and chocolate mixes. The company recently added zero sugar iced tea mixes to major supermarkets and grocery stores, so consumers can now enjoy low-calorie mixes and beverages sweetened with natural ingredients. GIDC also offers tolling services, where customers or brands can explore having their own Stevia based natural products.

Empowering Stevia Farmers

While touring Sweet and Fit Farm, we were shown the living quarters of the farmers where many of them live with their families. We learned that GIDC also supports the education of the farmer’s daughters by giving them scholarship grants.

Raschella Velayo
One of 4 clusters of Staff Houses located in the Stevia farm where farmers live

"Aside from providing a better working environment for our farmers, we also make sure that they are well taken care of in terms of their health needs by providing them with medical assistance", Michelle De Leon tells us. "That is on top of the housing and scholarship for their children", she adds.

Guilt-less Dessert Buffet

Following our brief tour of the farm, we ate lunch at the Karilagan Pavilion, which is also home to the Karilagan Stevia Cafe, which serves the farm's own "Heritage Menu". It is a set of meal consisting of their version of some of Bulacan's best hapag kainan offerings such as Napapanahong Ensalada, Sinabawan na Karaligan, Gulay ng Karilagan, Adobong Sitaw, Tinumis, Ensaladang Talong and more.

Michelle Lim of Cebu Pacific
Guilt-free desserts made with Stevia natural sweetener

The café treated us to a guilt-less dessert buffet all naturally sweetened by Stevia. "We take pride in our offerings of zero-calorie deserts and sweet breads", said Rocky Espiridion, Karilagan Cafe's manager.

Kara Santos and Celine Murillo

The Pavilion place of Sweet and Fit farm can also host receptions for weddings and other occasions. Guests can even stay overnight at the Bahay na Bato beside the café. Other activities on the farm includes stevia leaves picking, factory tour and even target shooting at the Delta Lions Shooting Range located inside the farm.

Marky Ramone Go

At the gun range. this writer attempted a Coco Martin’s Cardo Dalisay impression with the gun but found out that myself and guns don’t get along. Instead, what I found after was, natural sweeteners like Stevia are a perfect complement to my lifestyle since I travel a lot and sample different food. It is imperative to be conscious of the risk of diabetes and by keeping a close look at my sugar intake is the first step toward fighting this sweet-induced disease — with the help of Stevia supplements of course.

Jenna Belardo
The bahay na bato inside the farm

Summarizing GIDC’s vision, one would conclude that they not only encourages healthy living through sustainable agriculture practice, they also wants to send a message that it should be done with our farmers’ plight in mind.

Lovely Bulatao

“I highly encourage other entrepreneurs to also invest in agriculture. Why? Aside from the fact that there’s a growing demand for sustainable food, we are in an agricultural country and yet our farmers are the most neglected sector in our society. 

April Enerio

Let’s help them to improve the quality of their lives.  My wish and prayer are to pass it on from generation to generation so that the Filipino farmers will be proud of who they are and what they do.  Let us keep our Filipino pride alive by helping each other out. And hopefully, we will be able to grow local, go global.”  Maura De Leon, GIDC president and CEO said.