September 02, 2014
USANA: Delivering a Message of Health and Hope
by Lin Grensing-Pophal
Headquarters: Salt Lake City
Executives: Dr. Myron Wentz, Founder and Chairman; David Wentz, CEO
Products: nutrition, diet and energy, and personal care
|Dr. Myron Wentz|
Can you imagine a world without disease? Dr. Myron Wentz can. And, in fact, he’s made it his life’s mission to contribute to creating a world free from disease and focused on wellness and health products that have impacted people in countries all over the world.
A microbiologist and immunologist, Dr. Wentz is a pioneer in the development of human cell culture technology and infectious disease diagnoses. From the beginning of his career, his focus on improving people’s lives has been driven by a strong interest in medical science, the development of tests for viral diseases (he developed the first commercially available test for diagnosing infection with the Epstein-Barr virus), and broad humanitarian efforts.
Commitment Leads to Action
Dr. Wentz channeled his personal passion when he founded USANA Health Sciences Inc., because he believes disease prevention is as important as disease detection, and the single most effective way to prevent degenerative diseases is proper nutrition.
“If we can nourish the human body in a comprehensive way on a daily basis with the full spectrum of essential nutrients in the right forms, amounts, and in the proper balance, we can sustain long-term health and effectively avoid degenerative disease,” he says.
USANA’s nutritionals provide the high-quality vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that bodies need for good health, while its diet and energy products provide meal-replacements and snacks for weight loss and energy. The company has also introduced personal-care items to cleanse, refine and replenish skin and hair. USANA’s strong commitment to health and well-being even extends to the specific needs of children, with the creation of Usanimals™, a multivitamin especially designed for children in their formative years.
USANA’s nutritional supplements have found a loyal customer base, and the company has expanded to new markets in North America, Europe and the Asia Pacific region. Today, USANA is a high-performing and growing organization with sales of about $718 million in 2013 (compared to about $649 million in 2012 and about $582 million in 2011), with net earnings available to common shareholders of $80 million in 2013. Sales are generated from nutritionals (80 percent), foods (11 percent) and personal-care products (6 percent), with purchases coming from associates and preferred customers. Associates are independent distributors of the company’s products who may also purchase products for their own use, while preferred customers purchase products strictly for their personal use. As of the end of 2013, the company had 265,000 active associates and 78,000 active preferred customers worldwide.
Driving Change through Humanitarian Efforts
With this success comes more opportunity for the company to expand in an area that is already close to its leaders’ hearts—charitable giving. Jim Bramble, who has been with USANA for 17 years, is Chief Legal Officer and General Counsel for USANA Health Sciences and sits on the board of USANA’s foundation: the USANA True Health Foundation (UTHF). During his tenure, he says, the message and commitment to “giving back” has been driven home continuously. “This comes from our founder and his son, David [the company’s CEO]. They have very large hearts, and they’re very concerned with the fact that we’re very blessed but not everybody is.”
This strong personal commitment, says Bramble, led the company to partner early on with the Children’s Hunger Fund (CHF) and to join them in opening hospitals in Malawi, Uganda and Cambodia.
“We have had an amazing partnership with USANA now for 14 years,” says Dave Phillips, President of Children’s Hunger Fund. “Through the contributions of Dr. Wentz, USANA corporate and the USANA True Health Foundation, the USANA family has played a substantial role in our growth and impact over the years with nearly $20 million donated to provide nutrition for children and families in need.”
In 2012 the USANA True Health Foundation was formed with a mission of providing the most critical human necessities—nutrition, clothing, shelter, medical assistance and health education to those who are suffering or in need. The foundation focuses on three areas:
- Area of Greatest Need: releases funding and aid for worldwide disasters where immediate help is needed.
- Children’s Hunger Fund (CHF): a nonprofit organization that works to alleviate the suffering of children in impoverished regions across America and around the world.
- Sanoviv Medical Assistance: provides funding to Sanoviv Medical Institute patients who are otherwise not able to pay for their care.
The foundation is registered in seven countries where donors are able to receive tax benefits for their contributions, and it has received donations from people in 23 countries. Since its inception it has impacted more than 25,000 people, in 12 countries, through disaster relief and providing nutrition to underprivileged children and their families. About 15,000 people were impacted in 2013. One of these efforts involves a relationship with Dr. Mehmet Oz and his charitable foundation HealthCorps, which focuses on nutritional education for inner-city youth in North America.
Contributions to the foundation may be made in a variety of ways. Individuals, distributors and USANA employees may: donate a monthly amount; donate through the foundation’s website at www.usanafoundation.org; participate in the annual USANA Champions for Change 5K in August; or donate Usanimals™ vitamins to the Children’s Hunger Fund to help underprivileged children around the world.
In 2013, during USANA’s Success on the High Seas cruise, more than 700 distributors were asked to bring items to make life better for children living in the Foyer de Sion orphanage, when the ship stopped in Haiti. Thirteen children from the orphanage met the associates and received the gifts, which included much needed diapers, formula, nutritional supplements, toothpaste, soap and many other essential items.
There are other individual efforts as well. Teddy bears are sold at USANA’s Asia Pacific convention to benefit the foundation, and Philippine associates recently held a 5k to benefit victims of Typhoon Haiyan. Support is also provided to distributors who wish to hold their own fundraisers.
Serving the World
On Jan. 12, 2010, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck and devastated Haiti’s capital city, killing 230,000 people and leaving 1.5 million homeless. Japan’s epic 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami occurred the following year, on March 11, 2011, killing more than 15,000 people. Bramble says the tragedies weighed heavy on the heart of USANA CEO David Wentz.
Wentz went to the management team and asked, “How can we use the incredible power of direct selling, where people network together, to harness that energy to help in situations like these?”
Because of USANA’s global reach these tragedies are very personal. Says Bramble, “We have distributors who are our family in Japan, and we can’t work together as an entire community of USANA to respond to disasters like this because we have nothing in place.”
The USANA True Health Foundation was founded to respond to these types of situations. Through a partnership with International Relief Teams, USANA is now poised to respond when disasters strike throughout the world, especially in areas where USANA has a presence, he says.
“Our partnership with USANA True Health Foundation is invaluable,” says Barry LaForgia, Executive Director of International Relief Teams. “Knowing USANA will provide funding gives us the assurance to quickly apply resources during the critical early days after a disaster when lives are literally in the balance. USANA’s support also allows us to continue helping survivors, by not only enabling us to address their basic needs for temporary shelter, food and medical assistance while they are displaced, but also to help them recover through programs that restore livelihoods and permanent shelter.”
Donations to support the foundation come from multiple channels, including associates, employees and preferred customers. In some countries, participation is close to 100 percent of all employees, says Bramble.
Making It Personal
USANA’s efforts around the world are very personal to its employees and distributors. In many cases distributors see firsthand, not through a statistic but through the impact they individually have on others, the power of their commitment to helping those in need.
“One of our most successful markets is the Philippines,” Bramble says. It’s a country that has been through a lot in terms of natural disasters over the past few years, he notes. “Because we have so many distributors on the ground in that country, they’ve been able to participate not only in fundraising but also in donating to help their home.” In addition, he says, distributors have become personally involved by actually going into the cities that have been devastated and helping to rebuild.
“One thing we do is to encourage executives and associates alike, anyone who has a lot of influence in the field, to attend yearly missionary trips that the Children’s Hunger Fund sponsors,” he says. “Those who have donated on their own dime go together as a group with the CHF to different areas of the world and work with their hands in that area.”
Bramble himself has been directly involved in these efforts, and those experiences are very powerful, he says.
“For instance, when I went to Uganda we went to different villages in the inner city and passed out food and medicine. We went to an orphanage, and you just come back with those experiences that make it more personal—you gain a personal understanding of how you are really making a difference.”
In fact, Bramble says, “It really, in a lot of ways, was one of the most defining trips of my life.” That was back in 2008, but “there isn’t a day that I don’t at least dwell on it for a moment because it was so powerful.” It was a country that he says he didn’t know anything about, other than the name. He and his wife went with a group of about 30 people from the Children’s Hunger Fund and other distributors who wanted to participate.
|Dr. Myron Wentz visits the hospital he founded in Uganda.|
According to the International Monetary Fund, Uganda is one of the 20 poorest countries in the world, with 37.7 percent of the population living on less than $1.25 a day. This poverty has contributed significantly to the widespread undernutrition of the country’s people, with 38 percent of children chronically undernourished or stunted, according to Feed the Future, the U.S Government’s Global Hunger & Food Security initiative. “It’s to the extent that it will cause their deaths someday,” Bramble says. “It’s substantial malnourishment.” Most of these children are orphans because Uganda is a country that has been heavily hit by AIDS.
While in Uganda the group went to three locations. They went to the recently founded Wentz Medical Centre and Laboratory to visit and read to people suffering from malaria, to an orphanage on an island in Lake Victoria that was heavily impacted by both AIDS and civil unrest, and to the inner city, which was a place of extreme poverty. During each of these visits the team visited with people and delivered food and vitamins—the Usanimal™ vitamins that USANA produces.
“To me it was life-changing,” Bramble says. “I remember one specific instance, as I think back, of seeing this little girl who was 6–8 years old, and my daughter at the time was the same age. This little girl was wearing this paper dress—literally made of paper. And I thought of my daughter and this huge closet we have full of clothes, and how she never has to wear the same dress to church twice because she has so many. And I just thought ‘I need to be involved somehow to help little girls like this.’ ”
When Bramble returned home he went to CEO David Wentz and asked how he could become involved in more of these activities.
“That’s why it might seem strange to have the General Counsel be the person on the Board of Directors for the Foundation, but that was the experience that gave me the interest and led to my involvement,” he says.
How Others Can Make a Difference
Direct selling companies are businesses first and foremost. They and their distributors are interested in sales and business success. Because of that, acknowledges Bramble, there can be a hesitancy to divert the efforts of staff and distributors from selling to other activities—like charitable and humanitarian efforts.
But, he stresses, this fear is misplaced. “The truth is that it is not only the right thing to do, but it makes good business sense to involve your salesforce in charitable activities because it creates loyalty and it creates a feeling that ‘I’m involved with a company that does good things.’ ” That, he says, “helps you with your retention; those are people who are going to stay with you—they are going to sell products longer.
“Don’t be afraid of wasting resources on something other than your bottom line, because the bottom line is not as important anyway. And, in the end and over the long run, it will be better for the bottom line as well.”
In addition, he advises companies to find alignment between their business and their charitable passion. But make sure that the organizations you choose to partner with or support “have a really good infrastructure, are very efficient and already know how to deliver the aid where it is needed.” Direct sales companies shouldn’t attempt to deliver or recreate these systems on their own. “If you try to recreate, that’s a lot of dollars wasted on administration that someone else has already done.” In addition, he says, “It allows you to let your donors know that the help they’re providing goes directly to those who need it.”
Delivering a message of health and wellness to the world is something that resonates not only with employees and distributors, but with USANA’s customer base as well, Bramble says. It is through these collective efforts that Dr. Myron Wentz’s vision of wellness around the globe may someday be achieved.
“Our customers are very interested in health. Their charitable activities can help increase health, and then it’s a natural draw.”