This past month I visited Malaysia and Singapore and experienced the joys of traveling to Amway markets once again. It was great to be on stage sharing my optimal health journey with so many new people. And I’m so impressed by the passion of the staff and leaders. They are incredibly focused on being the best they can be and building the future of our business.
I believe that when we have the opportunity to experience different geographies and cultures, we often change our perspectives about ourselves. My travels have helped me see the world differently and better understand how connected we all are. And I believe that being able to connect through health and wellness makes our bonds even stronger.
Back when I was in my 40s, I was eager to take the Nutrilite brand around the world. To do this, I felt that I needed to experience the customs and dietary practices of various cultures around the world firsthand. So I set sail on a three-year journey on a sailboat called the Firebird that would take me to 36 countries.
During my travels, I discovered that the people I met with the best nutrition were also the happiest, most prosperous, and most involved in their communities. It was this observation that confirmed my belief that taking charge of our own nutrition is critical to living full, satisfying lives, to going after our dreams, and to having enough drive to act on what’s really important to us.
Continuing in my 50s and 60s, I traveled extensively around the world, helping Amway open up international markets at a record pace, introducing Nutrilite products to 47 new markets over a 20-year period from 1986 to 2006.
My latest trip reaffirmed my belief in the power of optimal nutrition and the incredible goodwill of people all over the world who make up our Nutrilite community.
A key reason why consumers trust the Nutrilite™ brand is because of the continual innovation occurring on our certified organic farms. Our farms represent an advanced ecosystem that combines thousands of acres of fertile farmland with sustainable organic farming practices.
The research field at Trout Lake West. Research and innovation happen on all of our certified organic farms.
Our commitment to vertical integration allows us to control the entire production process from the seed planted in the soil to the supplement you eat every day. In practical terms, this means we can maintain a steady supply of the nutritious botanicals used to make ingredients for your favorite Amway products, including Nutrilite™ supplements and Artistry beauty products.
The inspiration for our farming practices began quite humbly when my father, Nutrilite founder Carl Rehnborg, started growing alfalfa on a small farm in California’s San Fernando Valley in the 1940s. He simply wanted the purest, most nutritious botanicals for his supplements, and he intuitively knew that they needed to be grown sustainably and naturally, without chemical pesticides or fertilizers. This was before we even knew to call it organic farming.
Farmer using a scythe in field.
I remember helping him harvest alfalfa when I was a young boy. He included me in his daily work on the farm, even when I might have been creating more trouble for him than being helpful. As I reflect on those early days, I can see that his thinking at the time created the foundation our farming practices are built on.
Practicing Our Sustainable Organic Philosophy
Our farms represent the pinnacle of our sustainable organic philosophy put into practice, and we do it on an impressive scale. Even so, the farms are not large enough, or diverse enough, to provide the steady supply of botanical ingredients that go into all our products.
Our flagship supplement alone, Nutrilite™ Double X™, contains as many as 22 different plant nutrients. And if you count all the different plant ingredients in the full complement of Nutrilite products, the number exceeds 190 botanicals.
That’s why we can’t source every plant ingredient found in our products from our own farms. Not to mention that many of our ingredients come from unique geographic locales around the world.
Our NutriCert™ Program
So how do we do it? It all happens because of our NutriCert™ program, an incredible supply-chain system that has been in place since 2004. We just wouldn’t be able to provide the breadth of plant-based products for you without it.
Through NutriCert™ we partner with farmers around the world who have values like ours. In this way we can grow plants with newly discovered phytonutrients that wouldn’t flourish on our own farms. NutriCert™ certification requires partner farms to be traceable, ecologically sustainable, and socially responsible.
On our own farms and partner farms, we can monitor every step from seed to finished product. We can even trace a plant back to the farm and field where it was planted and grown.
Here are some examples of our NutriCert™ program practices:
Maintenance of a natural and balanced farm site environment
Ecologically vital operations that enhance biodiversity
Good agricultural practices that promote food safety
Worker safety and development
Community outreach and involvement
Documentation of farm management plans and production activities
Traceability of final ingredient to the agricultural field location
The great thing is that the partnerships we’ve created benefit everyone involved. Farmers benefit financially by learning to grow crops using the high NutriCert™ program standards. This, in turn, helps invigorate the local communities. We benefit by expanding our supply chain in a controlled way without compromising quality. Finally, consumers benefit as we can meet the ever-increasing demand for Nutrilite™ products.
It creates a natural success cycle that continues to improve the products we produce and the world we live in. What could be better than that?
My father, Nutrilite founder Carl Rehnborg, was ahead of his time, he was able to foresee outcomes before they happened. And he was always looking for ways to improve the health of the planet and our prospects as individuals – even in unconventional ways.
If you’ve read The Nutrilite Story, you might know the story of the Acaniaa ship he purchased to harvest plankton from the sea off the coast of Alaska. If you want to know more about Nutrilite history, understanding the story of the Acania is a good place to start because it embodies my father’s forward thinking-nature, the type of thinking that translates into the foundation of the Nutrilite brand.
The Acania designed by John H. Wells and built by Consolidated Shipbuilding Company in 1930. Seen here as Research vessel in Juneau, Alaska (1987)- Southeast Alaska. By Gillfoto – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=75
An Eventful World Tour
In the early 1950s my father was entering the retirement phase of his life, having turned 65 in 1952. But he wasn’t slowing down by any means.
A year later, his insatiable curiosity led him to embark on a world tour with his wife Edith that took them to Europe, the Middle East and Asia. During his travels, he was analyzing the character and culture of ancient places that were brand new to him. And in doing so he couldn’t help but view things through his own particular lens – nutrition.
He visited Europe when it was still recovering from the devastation of World War II. He theorized that proper supplementation could help bridge nutritional gaps in people still recovering from the traumas of war. And throughout his travels across three different continents he saw stark reminders of poverty and malnutrition.
He returned home inspired to find ways to make the world a better place and to do what he could to help eliminate poverty and starvation. He saw that people were not only suffering from a lack of vitamins, but also from an inadequate intake of protein.
Observations while Sailing to and from China
Decades earlier he had sailed to and from China across the North Pacific, where he saw plankton blooms glowing in the dark seas at night. Memories of those passages across the ocean gave him an idea for a solution. In the fall of 1954, he decided to find a way to harvest plankton straight from the sea and use it to make a protein supplement.
Why plankton? More bang for the buck, he figured, or more protein by the pound, to be more accurate. Sure, one pound of plankton might be roughly equivalent to a pound of fish, but a lot of food value was lost between the plankton and the big fish that humans ate.
He purchased a 126 foot luxury yacht called the Acania and he refitted it for harvesting plankton. By the summer of 1956, the Acania set sail, bound for the waters off Alaska. I was able to join the crew during my summer break from Stanford University, where I had just completed my sophomore year studying chemical engineering.
How it Worked
From the Acania’s deck, we would send these big coned-shaped nets down 100 feet in water to scoop up the protein-rich plankton. We would follow the plankton on sonar. We could see the fluorescent plankton rise at night with the dwindling sun when we could get close enough to harvest it. We would bring it onboard via big pumps that sucked it out of the water and into the bowels of the boat, where it was spray-dried with relatively little treatment. Every night, we would catch 100 pounds. It produced a very high-quality material that was 85 percent protein.
The trip was a success, proving that plankton could indeed be harvested, and a healthful protein supplement easily made from it.
Unfortunately, the operation wasn’t economically viable. Harvesting plankton was simply too costly at the time to produce a supplement whose primary market would be the world’s most poverty-stricken areas.
The Acania Today
The current owners of the Acania reached out to me earlier this year to compile historical details about the vessel. The ship was built in 1929 and it’s had a storied history with multiple owners. Nutrilite owned it from 1955 to 1960 after which the boat was sold to the Stanford Research Institute.
The ship is being restored after it sank at the dock in Everett, Washington in August of 2017.
I hope to be able to visit the current owners sometime in the near future to share personal stories about my time on the Acania and to relive some of the wonderful memories I experienced as a young man helping to build the future of the Nutrilite brand.
Recent photos of the Acania undergoing restoration after being salvaged from the harbor bottom.
A Friend of the Sea
Today, Nutrilite ingredients harvested from the ocean are Friend of the Sea® certified. That includes the entire supply chain — the fisheries, the fish oil producer, and our products. Specifically, it relates to our new Omega and Advanced Omega products that have begun rolling out this year. It’s another step toward sustainability and care for the planet we call home.
Friend of the Sea® sustainable fisheries and Omega-3 certification ensures certified products minimally impact the environment. Following Friend of the Sea® requirements ensures healthy fish, supports endangered species, and encourages an abundant supply for the future.
My Father’s Legacy
My father was focused on sustainability, social responsibility, and other innovative methods to help alleviate global challenges like poverty, malnutrition, and climate change. He was doing this even before the modern environmental movement was born.
It’s the type of thinking we need more of today as we slowly realize that the future is now. And we can’t pass our problems to the next generation anymore.
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My recent trip to Amway World Headquarters allowed me to see the future when I visited the archives and records department. That’s where I found a dedicated team of people keeping track of all the materials and artifacts we’ve generated over the decades.
From left to right: Mckeyia Neely, Sue Bowerman, Dr. Sam, Sue Burd, Stephanie Bustraan, Maritza Andrade – not pictured
The climate controlled, state-of-the-art facility is preserving Nutrilite and Amway history, and it’s providing a glimpse into a future that’s still connected to our past.
Let me explain with a brief history lesson.
The Nutrilite story started when my father, Carl Rehnborg, discovered the power of plant-based nutrients, and their impact on human health, while living in China more than 100 years ago.
While traveling the country, he saw that people living in rural areas were much healthier than those living in the city. They were more physically active, and they ate more fruits and vegetables. By contrast, city dwellers were more sedentary, and their diet was less diverse.
He realized that people who were missing these plant-based nutrients that, at the time, he called “associated food factors” – later they would be known as phytonutrients – were not as healthy as they could be.
He personally came face-to-face with the reality of poor nutrition when he and his family were trapped in an isolated settlement in Shanghai during civil war battles in 1927. During this several-month period, the whole city was essentially locked down while warring factions fought.
With food supplies growing short and noticing the signs of malnutrition among other inhabitants, he would gather whatever greens he could from the settlement’s parks and gardens and whatever foodstuffs he was able to persuade the guards to bring him to prepare soups and gruels.
He even added rusty nails and bones to his concoctions whenever he could, knowing that they would provide supplemental iron and calcium and other valuable minerals. He passed out samples to his friends and neighbors. Dad and the family ate it, and he encouraged everyone who would listen to do the same.
He survived the experience and returned to Southern California later that year with $40 in his pocket.
The time he spent in China and the simple observations he made about nutrition became the seeds of an idea that inspired him to create what is believed to be the first multivitamin/multimineral food supplement in the North American marketplace in 1934. He founded Vitamin Products Company, and later changed the company name to Nutrilite in 1939. It wasn’t without personal trials and tribulations, but my father believed in his dream and worked doggedly for many years to turn it into reality.
The fundamentals of the Nutrilite origin story still hold true. Carl Rehnborg believed in eating healthy, colorful whole foods, supplementing the diet with plant-based nutrients, regular exercise and activity, and a positive mental attitude based in curiosity about the world.
Simply put, these ideas of prevention and optimal health still hold true for the Nutrilite brand and Amway of today and in the future.
What I saw in the Archives
At this point I’m sure you’re wondering what I saw when I visited the archives. Here’s a gallery of photos and ads from the early days of Nutrilite.
That’s me at work in the lab during my early days at Nutrilite.The first Double X.1950s product lineup.Nutrilite letterhead and business cards circa 1950s.A modern photo of the past.Presenting at the Biltmore in my earlier days at Nutrilite.Nutrilite storefront in the 1950s.That’s me in the alflafa fields in the 1980s.A magazine advertisement from 1953.A Nutrilite magazine advertisement from the 1950s.
I hope you’re able to see the future in our archives just like I did. We’ve come a long way in nearly 90 years.
At the end of February, I traveled from California to Michigan to visit Amway World Headquarters where I experienced some of the incredible work that is underway to build the future of the Nutrilite brand. I spoke at an employee meeting, met with teammates, toured manufacturing facilities, and visited other departments on the Ada Campus.
Speaking at the Amway Employee Meeting with Doug DeVos.
It was a good week. And my time in Michigan reaffirmed my belief in the future and helped me see that the Nutrilite brand and Amway are on the right track.
One thing that stood out to me were the bonds that exist between employees, a thread between good people and good work. I believe a key component of a successful company is happy employees who find meaning and purpose in their jobs. Part of that magic stems from a workplace culture that prioritizes overall wellbeing and a balance between work and play.
Yes, we all need to provide for ourselves and our families, but our work life shouldn’t necessarily define us. It’s just one component of our identity.
That’s why I was pleased to interact with employees who really get it, those who have figured out how to find the balance between career success and family. Everyone is unique and different; they bring their own perspective and experience to a community that is working tirelessly to create positive impact in our world. That’s the good thread.
I met with the Nutritional Products Plant team.The eSpring team shared a sneak peek of the next generation with me.I was given a great tour of the Spaulding Manufacturing facilities.I visited the wonderful team in Archives.
It’s all about PREVENTION
You’ve heard me discuss Prevention before. But I want to reiterate its importance. This simple concept can change the trajectory of our future. We need to start now, taking care of our health, taking care of our community, and taking care of our planet. It’s the triple bottom line approach that Amway and the Nutrilite brand have adopted. You see it on our farms, in our laboratories, in our manufacturing, in our offices and in the community of ABOs spread throughout the world who believe in the power of optimal health.
The future is bright!
I’m pleased that we are following a “good thread” – that we are on a positive path to the future that can make the world a better place. It’s time to be proactive and creative.
We need to constantly search for innovative ways to protect and improve our prospects in a world where technology and things like artificial intelligence are disrupting how we think about things we’ve taken for granted for a long time.
While it feels like everything is speeding up, the goal is to slow down. If you can do that, you will find meaning and purpose in a world where it feels like everyone, and everything wants our attention all the time.
So take a walk, read a book, enjoy a healthy meal with your family and friends. Breathe!
You’ll be glad you did.
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Welcome to my blog on healthy living with the Nutrilite™ brand.