This year, global multi-level marketing industry champion Herbalife Nutrition celebrates 40 years in the industry, while Herbalife Taiwan turns 25, a major milestone in the company’s history.
Founded in Los Angeles in 1980, Herbalife Nutrition has expanded its focus over the years from the original concentration on weight management, eventually also encompassing sports nutrition and wellbeing. The company’s science-backed products are now sold in over 90 countries. They are extremely popular in Taiwan and the rest of Asia, with an average of over 955,000 Herbalife Nutrition Shakes consumed daily across 14 countries in the Asia Pacific region.
Herbalife’s products are not just well-loved by consumers, they have also been recognized for their high standards of quality and safety. In Taiwan, the semi-official Institute for Biotechnology and Medicine Industry has awarded 18 Herbalife products with its coveted Symbol of National Quality certification. Products that receive the SNQ label are evaluated based on rigorous safety, efficacy, and quality criteria.
The key to the company’s success, says Herbalife Taiwan General Manager Ceasar Chen, is not just the products themselves, but the lifestyle that the company has promoted for both its distributors and their customers.
“We don’t focus solely on business opportunities for our distributors, or push them to sell products in order to get a rebate or commission,” says Chen. “We are promoting daily consumption by the distributors themselves, encouraging them to be healthy and active using our 80/20 rule – 80% nutrition and 20% exercise.” That distributors are practicing what they preach when they sell the company’s products and promote its message adds an extra level of authenticity to the Herbalife brand in Taiwan and globally.
Acknowledging that nutrition, fitness, and weight-loss needs differ from person to person, Herbalife trains all of its distributors to provide personalized nutrition services to their customers – promoting healthy lifestyles and developing future business leaders. The company calls this instruction its “distributor difference,” and it includes product education by Herbalife Nutrition experts, innovative webinar trainings, online member meetings, and information about product pipelines.
In addition, Herbalife’s organizing of events like triathlons and its unique Nutrition Clubs – social gatherings that offer a sort of support community among distributors and customers – have helped attract a much younger cohort than some of its multi-level marketing competitors.
“Our members are young, energetic, and motivated,” says Ceasar Chen. “Herbalife’s Nutrition Clubs provide a space for them to share their experiences, join activities, and learn together. They also give customers a chance to try out and enjoy our products.”
Chen notes that the Nutrition Clubs make Herbalife a standout in the industry, as they provide distributors with an effective Daily Method of Operation (DMO) – an activity they perform every day to generate customers and train other people to work with them. This practice creates a special environment that fosters increased engagement and sustained growth for distributors.
Beyond the company’s focus on carving out a unique niche in the direct sales market, Herbalife has also made a commitment to promoting health and nutrition in underserved communities. In Taiwan, the Herbalife Nutrition Foundation in 2013 began establishing Casa Herbalife Nutrition programs to help children in remote areas. Under these programs, the foundation provides an initial monetary grant to local schools that covers education services and Herbalife products for the students. Afterwards, the schools continue to receive financial and volunteer support from Herbalife’s local distributors and corporate employees.
“Good nutrition education starts with children,” says Ceasar Chen. “Through the Casa program, we set an example and encourage our distributors to follow it – to give back to society.”
As an active AmCham Taipei member and co-chair of the Chamber’s Retail Committee, Chen also demonstrates Herbalife’s dedication to public-policy advocacy and desire to be a good corporate citizen.
“We wish to bridge the current gap between the public and private sectors,” says Chen. “Our goal is to push for a reasonable and science-based regulatory environment. We do this by generating a constructive dialogue with the government that will benefit all hardworking companies.”
One of the regulatory issues faced by Herbalife Taiwan is the heavy restriction on what claims a company can make when marketing nutritional supplements. This obstacle prevents Herbalife distributors from being able to position the company’s products accurately and understandably.
“Protecting consumers is extremely important to us,” Chen says. “We therefore want them to be receiving the right product information. They have a right to know certain things about the function of each product.”
Chen notes that through Herbalife Taiwan’s efforts, the National Development Council and the Ministry of Health and Welfare have taken note of the industry’s concerns, and that some progress is being made in this area.
Globally, an emphasis on healthy active lifestyles has been the key driver of Herbalife Nutrition’s success as the company enters its 40th year. In Taiwan, Chen says,“We want people to stay healthy and strong, and we are excited to be offering products and a community-based approach to nutrition and active lifestyles that leads to real-world benefits for our members and their communities.”