Founded in 1968, NOW has grown from a small family operation into one of the most respected manufacturers in the natural products industry, with over 1,000 employees, according to Jim Emme, CEO, NOW Health Group.
Founder and former president Elwood Richard grew the company from one retail store into a multi-million dollar manufacturing company with its heart firmly established in the natural products industry. “Still a family-owned company today, NOW remains committed to offering safe, affordable products of the highest quality,” said Mr. Emme, who joined the company more than 20 years ago as a plant manager. He was promoted to CEO in 2014 following the retirement of Al Powers.
NOW Health Group comprises Puresource, Canada’s leading national distributor and manufacturer of natural health products; The Fruitful Yield chain of 13 natural food stores in the Chicago suburbs; and its manufacturing arm, NOW, which is the largest division of the company.
Along with a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Bloomingdale, IL, which has been GMP-certified since 2000, the company’s in-house laboratory capabilities are among the best in the industry, Mr. Emme said. The company opened another manufacturing facility in Sparks, NV, in 2013, which was designed to replicate the high standards of the Illinois operation.
An Expanding Operation
According to the most recent SPINS data, “NOW is the #1 selling amino acid brand in the health food channel, #1 in the miscellaneous category (CoQ10, ALA, etc.), #2 in the sports nutrition category, and NOW Solutions is #1 in body oils and a very close #2 in the essential oils category,” said Mr. Emme.
NOW has experienced double-digit growth for the last five years thanks in part to the essential oils/personal care category, which experienced growth in excess of 40% in 2015 compared to the previous year.
To accommodate continued growth, NOW purchased an additional building last fall near its Bloomingdale manufacturing and distribution operations facility.
“This latest acquisition is a warehouse building located in Roselle, IL,” said Mr. Emme. “Built in 2007, this facility has over 207,000 square feet in which NOW will relocate the order fulfillment and distribution operations currently in the Bloomingdale facility. This move will allow the receiving operations to move into the space formerly occupied by order fulfillment, providing much needed additional warehouse space in the Bloomingdale building.”
The move will also allow NOW to expand the manufacturing operations further at Bloomingdale in the next few years. NOW moved its corporate office from the Bloomingdale facility in 2012 to allow for expanded manufacturing and lab space.
Consistently among the top selling brands in the natural channel, NOW introduced a new supplement label design last year. The company also launched a line of pet products in collaboration with a respected holistic veterinarian, Dr. Barbara Royal, founder and owner of The Royal Treatment Veterinary Center in Chicago, IL.
“The NOW Pets line offers products specifically tailored to address today’s most common pet health concerns made with the same attention to quality as NOW’s supplements for people,” said Mr. Emme. “NOW Pets has been quality certified by the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC), an organization that protects and enhances the integrity of the animal health product industry.”
Mr. Emme said NOW is also “very interested” in the probiotics market, which seems to be benefiting from growing consumer understanding about health benefits associated with beneficial bacteria. “There are more studies coming to light regarding their use,” he said of probiotics. “We are receiving more queries regarding this information, showing that consumer interest in this category is growing.”
Throughout its existence, and the evolution of its legacy brand, the company has retained a commitment to health food retailers, Mr. Emme added.
The Quality Conversation
Over the years, the supplement industry has endured criticism from several fronts. Lately, that pressure has escalated, with actions from state attorneys general, members of Congress and negative media reports all representing threats to the overall market.
“While we never enjoy seeing the industry attacked, particularly when questionable science is used to do it, the increased focus on assuring and demonstrating quality is a welcome development,” said Mr. Emme. “We don’t necessarily agree with some of the programs being discussed that, in our view, may limit competition and, more crucially, consumer access to a variety of safe and effective products, but of course we are staying involved in these conversations.”
Mr. Emme said he believes much of the negative attention is “uninformed,” and that “communicating a more accurate picture of the industry is critical.” For example, NOW supports efforts to inform state attorneys general and Congress more directly.
“We also see and hear time and time again the media reporting that the supplements industry is unregulated, which is simply not true,” Mr. Emme continued. “The media relations efforts to counter this misinformation by the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) and other trade associations are commendable. We also participate annually in the Natural Products Association (NPA) Day on the Hill to speak directly with our members of Congress, as well as inviting our local representatives to see our facility and hear an accurate representation of how the responsible core of the industry operates.”
Ultimately, at a time when healthcare costs continue to skyrocket, offering consumers natural products that help them lead healthier lives “is just the right thing to do,” Mr. Emme continued. “In 16 states only registered dietitians are legally allowed to provide nutrition and supplement advice, and there are other exclusionary laws as well.”
To support efforts to change this limitation, NOW is a founding member of the Nutrition Leaders Council, a new coalition of nutrition organizations (the Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists, Certified Nutrition Specialists, the Center for Nutrition Advocacy and the American Nutrition Association), and companies working to eliminate obstacles that healthcare professionals encounter when trying to integrate nutrition counseling into their practices.
Mr. Emme said NOW will continue its leadership role in advocating for access to safe and effective products, “and the ways in which we will support that commitment will evolve to adapt to challenges and opportunities. We are focusing resources on supporting our robust growth, on developing new products that are healthier alternatives to mainstream offerings, and to supporting the natural channel retailers.”
An important component of offering better products is choosing business partners that demonstrate “shared values,” including a sustainable business model that favors quality and ethics over short-term profit, Mr. Emme said. “We look for a commitment to quality, transparency and mutually beneficial relationships. While some may think this isn’t ‘business-like,’ our continued growth over the decades proves otherwise.”
NOW also supports a wide range of social and environmental efforts throughout the industries and communities in which it operates. For example, the company regularly hosts conservation and clean up events in support of Make a Difference Day and Earth Week—a tradition that dates back more than a decade. “From intensive energy conservation and recycling programs to community clean-up efforts, minimizing environmental impact is just second nature to us,” said Mr. Emme.
Committed to supporting various charities, a few of the non-profit causes and organizations NOW contributes to include: Vitamin Angels, Feeding America, World Relief, The Conservation Foundation, the Natural Health Research Institute, Meal-A-Day of the Americas, and many others.