I’ve been lucky enough to work with one of the largest supplement companies in the world during my time in the industry. I’ve traveled across the country and I’ve seen a lot of amazing things. Then after leaving corporate America to start my own business, I’ve had the opportunity to work with supplement companies across the globe—helping them grow their business through consulting, business development, brokering, and creating content/copy for them. Funny enough, I’ve even had a few brands ask me to become a partner with them and expand their business. One of these brands in particular further opened my eyes as to what goes on behind the scenes—and it wasn’t a pretty experience.
Not all supplement companies are created equal
I’m not here to put all supplement companies under one umbrella and say they are all bad, but unfortunately some are. There is no industry out there where corruption hasn’t bared its ugly head. We’d like to think everyone plays by the rules, but that’s not the case.
Both big brands and small alike are held to the same standards, and to the uninformed consumer, they wouldn’t know any different if one brand was playing by the rules and another wasn’t. Lucky enough for consumers, there are more good brands out there than bad. However, as a consumer, you should be doing your own homework on brands to see if it’s someone you would want to stand behind and spend your hard-earned money on.
I was approached by a brand, that isn’t small by any means, in April of 2016. They had a small side-brand that they were trying to grow and were willing to give me equity and become owner and CEO of the brand if I was willing to take on expanding and growing the business. Already running my own business (Weik Fitness), I simply didn’t have time to look into the supplement company, but I had heard of them before and most certainly was familiar with their larger brand which is in places like Bodybuilding.com, GNC, Amazon, as well as retail locations across the United States. Due to my lack of time, I asked my attorney to look over the contract and do some homework on the two brands to see if they are both set up the same, both in good standing, look for lawsuits, etc. This would not turn out to be good news for me.
My attorney called me a few days after I handed everything over to him to handle and he asked me to come into the office that he had some things he wanted to go over with me. As I come to find out, both supplement companies were far from being set up similarly and while one was in good standing and had their T’s crossed and I’s dotted, the other was one of the shadiest brands my attorney has ever seen.
This brand had an expired business license for over four years, a website that was half-assed and confusing to navigate, had lawsuits and judgements against them, didn’t have insurance on the products they were selling on the market, hadn’t paid their taxes in over two years, and when I was handed their books to have my attorney look at, the numbers weren’t adding up. Red flag, after red flag, after red flag. I was completely blown away that owners of such a large brand could have a side hustle that was so corrupt.
To make things even worse, they had investors that haven’t been paid a dime since they gave these guys their investment money! I cut ties with the brand, exposed to them my findings that they kept from me, and told them I would never be partners with them or even support either of their brands.
What does this mean to you, the consumer?
While you might not be interested in working in the industry or even working hand-in-hand with a brand, it’s important that you look at the supplement companies that you are supporting and buying products from. I’m not saying you NEED to look up the information on the business, but chances are, if there are some holes in their business, there are some holes in the products you are purchasing and consuming.
Most brands that have been in the industry for some time are still in business for a reason—they’re legit. Then you have the brands that pop up quickly, make their money, and disappear in the middle night—some of them taking people’s money and never shipping product to the consumers that was paid for.
This is an extreme example of what could potentially go on behind the scenes of supplement companies, but one that I felt needed some light shed on. Know the brand you are buying from. Understand the ingredients that are in the products. Is the brand GMP certified? Do they hold any certifications at all? Are there COA (certificates of analysis) on any of their products that you can view? When you reach out to a brand with a question, do you ever hear back from them?
Not all brands will have these things, and it doesn’t necessarily mean they are bad, but if they’re being sued, they don’t have a valid business license, have a cheap looking website, and you’re getting a weird vibe—do your homework. Or better yet, save yourself the time and go with a brand that has been around for a while.