How Supplement Companies Walk Their Wellness Talk

Lonza runEmployees of Lonza, a Swiss nutraceutical ingredient company, participate in the Zermatt half marathon, as part of the company's "Lonza Makes You Fit" program. More than 140 Lonza people made it across the finish line atop the Riffelberg, a 2600-meter mountain peak. (Image courtesy of Lonza)The supplement industry promotes wellness — that’s its mission. And it’s succeeding. Recent figures show wellness is a $3.7 trillion industry.

“People everywhere are looking for better alternatives to managing their own health than conventional pharmaceutical therapies,” says Pam Conboy, Global Brand Manager for Klaire Laboratories, one of the leading practitioner-focused supplement brands.

“Everywhere” includes the supplement companies themselves. From small businesses to multinational corporations, every company can create and promote wellness from within — it’s just good business.  

“If employees aren’t happy,” says Conboy, “they’re not going to perform at their top level.”

Klaire has made considerable investments in employee wellness; it is part of the brand’s core values, and an important demonstration of the company’s commitment to those values.

But wellness programming does’t need to be high-tech or budget-breaking to have positive results. Klaire’s most in-demand wellness initiative is its lunch and learn series.

“We get the greatest turnouts,” says Conboy. “People have a real hunger for information.” Presenters include integrative wellness experts but also “people who use our products.” The company’s high-quality, hypoallergenic supplements have a strong following within the autism community in particular. When employees connect with people who share their health challenges and who rely on the company’s neutraceutical line, they “understand their work is really meaningful.”

Wellness as an Ethos

“Wellness needs to be ingrained into the company’s ethos,” says June Lin, Head of Global Marketing, Consumer Health and Nutrition for Lonza, one of the supplement industry’s major raw materials suppliers. At Lonza, basic healthcare benefits are just the starting point. The company tries hard to foster a culture of fitness.

Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland with 100 offices worldwide, the company’s 14,500 workers embrace that ethos. They’re excellent ambassadors for fitness, thanks to the company’s fun fitness projects. Three hundred of Lonza’s personnel participated in their marathon training program, Lonza Makes You Fit in 2016, including Lonza CEO Richard Ridinger. The program was such a success, the following year, the company added a cycling component. Lonza sponsored every employee who competed in the race, which benefitted a Swiss cancer foundation.

There’s that old joke about whether a chef would be willing to eat in his own restaurant. At Metagenics, that’s a given; everyone who works there gets to experience the benefits of the company’s products.

In addition to offering fresh fruit and nuts in the break room, the company stocks its kitchen with its own line of supplements and blenders for staff smoothies. Better nutritional status is one of the hoped-for outcomes, to be sure, but the benefits include team-building, as well. “We’re always sharing information and products,” says the company’s Human Resource Director Christina Chow.

Klaire, Lonza and Metagenics all cite community engagement as a vital part of their wellness programming, partnering with local organizations, whether it’s a clothing drive for the homeless or sponsoring sports and social clubs within their communities.

Fitness, Fun & Fellowship

Yoga sessions, stress management techniques and mindfulness workshops are other effective ways to build wellness within the workplace. After all, wellness isn’t just about the body, it has a strong emotional component.  Group activities of any kind offer opportunities for greater bonding and office morale.

At Metagenics, “we have fun, as well. We try to add some goofy fun to wrap into our day,” says Chow. But, she adds, “if you’re not feeling it, you don’t have to participate. We don’t pressure you. Everyone has a different viewpoint as to what wellness is to them. We can come up with a beautiful, awesome plan, but if it doesn’t resonate within our population, it’s not going to work.”

Metagenics consults with partners and industry experts to make it work, to develop the right programming. The company pays attention to wellness trends, but places the highest value on employee input. Chow and her colleagues send out surveys, and have an open-door policy to get feedback about, “what employees feel is important to their life, what we should focus on and how to integrate that into our wellness program.”

Four hundred employees have participated in the company’s most innovative wellness initiatives, called Life-HOUSE (Lifestyle Intervention and Functional Evaluation - a Health OUtcomes SurvEy). The program offers employees free blood panel testing and 23andMe genetics kits.  After data is analyzed, employees receive personal consultations from Metagenics-affiliated clinicians, followed by customized diet and lifestyle plans, free nutritional supplements, and health coaching.

The executive team at Klaire tries to foster a corporate culture in which every employee understands that personal health is valuable. The company offers discounted memberships at local health clubs and facilities. Klaire stretchKlaire Labs employees stretch before their daily walk, part of the Reno, Nevada-based company's wellness program (Image courtesy Klaire Labs)“And we encourage our folks to use our products, available at a deep discount,” says Conboy. “Employees see a difference in themselves and their families.”

Sustaining the efficacy of wellness programs and maintaining employee engagement is always a challenge, especially as companies grow larger or get acquired by massive corporate conglomerates. There’s always the danger that health and wellness values will get subsumed by bottom-line fiscal imperatives.

“With new and established businesses entering the nutraceuticals market, existing companies need to adapt and evolve to stay true to their core wellness values,” says Lin of Lonza.

A Quality Indicator

In fact, bigger can sometimes be better when it comes to employee health and wellness.

Klaire Labs demonstrated this elegantly after being acquired by Soho Flordis International, along with ProThera and Complementary Prescriptions. According to Conboy, the three entitles have all benefitted each other. Klaire brought to the mix, “the lens of quality. Prothera and Complementary didn’t have that focus on clean formulations. We removed any allergens.”

Perhaps the merger’s success comes from Klaire holding “true to Claire,” says Conboy, referring to founder Clare Farr, an industry pioneer and champion who started the company in her own kitchen. Farr, who suffered from multiple chronic inflammatory conditions, formulated the kind of supplements she wanted for her own health — and for the health of others.

Even as the company looks towards the future, Klaire won’t lose sight of the past. “We’ll have our 50th anniversary next year,” says Conboy. “We really started to resurrect Claire Farr. Her history and story are all over our walls,” inspiring the company to honor Farr’s vision and commitment. “We’re still a relatively small company, growing and evolving. The important part is evolving in the right direction and taking everyone along with us.”

Klaire, Lonza and Metagenics appreciate a healthy bottom line, but value a healthy workforce more. As Conboy says, “This is not about manufacturing products, shipping them out and making money. Our focus is really making a difference. That’s the great joy.”

It is also a subtle but important quality indicator. A company that makes a strong and sustained commitment to the health and wellbeing of its own employees is likely to be equally committed to ensuring the quality and safety of its products.

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