Local consumer trust at heart of Herbalife successes

May 31, 2021 | 08:00
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Health and nutrition are humanity’s top priorities, and modern methods can be used to help in this regard. John Agwunobi, CEO and chairman of Herbalife Nutrition, talked with VIR’s Hara Nguyen about the company’s efforts to provide the best nutrition products to people in Vietnam.
local consumer trust at heart of herbalife successes
John Agwunobi, CEO and chairman of Herbalife Nutrition

Could you elaborate on the first-quarter performance of Herbalife Nutrition?

We are happy to say that building off the record performance in 2020, we had the largest first-quarter net sales result in company history. Globally, there was an increased demand for our full line of quality nutrition products. In the first quarter of 2021, the energy, sports, and fitness category grew by approximately 34 per cent while the weight management product category was up 16 per cent and targeted nutrition, which includes our health and wellness product offerings, was up 21 per cent.

As a result, we had a first-quarter net sales of $1.5 billion, an 18.9 per cent increase compared with the first quarter of 2020. The Asia-Pacific region had a record quarter with net sales growth of 22.4 per cent versus the prior year. This double-digit net sales growth is a reflection of our long-established strategy and growth trajectory that started in 2018.

What were the key elements behind the results?

With record earnings, our performance can be attributed to our business model, the entrepreneurial nature of our distributors, our sales force, and their ability to adapt their approach at a very localised level to add value to their customers.

Our strong performance can also be attributed to the market’s increasing demand for our full line of quality nutrition products and the business opportunity our sales model provides. As we have seen, the direct sales model is critically important in the field of nutrition. The benefits our distributors bring to their customers in terms of daily care and direct support is invaluable. We call it the "Distributor Difference" and is what truly sets us apart.

How has the Vietnam market contributed to the overall performance of Herbalife Nutrition?

Herbalife Vietnam is a very important contributor to our company’s overall performance, which has now become the largest market in the Asia-Pacific and ranks fifth globally. Our business in the Vietnam market continued to maintain growth momentum in the first quarter of 2021.

I am very proud of our achievements in Vietnam. We are not only recognised among the top sustainable companies, but also for our products’ public health efficacy, plus our socioeconomic contribution to the local community. We are deeply grateful to our employees and distributors in Vietnam, who continue to deliver on our promise to customers every day, despite the ongoing pandemic.

You just mentioned that Herbalife Vietnam has become the largest market in the Asia-Pacific. What are the key factors for success?

One of the most important factors behind Herbalife Vietnam’s great performance is the trust from local consumers in our high-quality, science-based nutrition products to help them meet their nutritional needs. We have won the Golden Product for Public Health Award from the Vietnam Association of Functional Food (VAFF) for several years in a row.

Secondly, Vietnamese people are increasingly more health and wellness conscious and putting greater emphasis on living healthy, active lifestyles. We are well-positioned to play a leading role in this shift, with our wide range of nutrition products to help Vietnamese people achieve their health and wellness goals.

Additionally, we have a very robust distributor base in Vietnam. Our distributors are our local sales force, who provide good nutrition products and support their customers while earning an income working either full or part-time. We are very pleased with the steady growth of distributors in the country.

What do you feel were the most impressive results of Herbalife Vietnam?

I’m particularly impressed by our sports sponsorship programme in Vietnam. We started our long-term partnership with the Vietnam Olympic Committee (VOC) and Vietnam Paralympic Association (VPA) in 2012. Through the partnership, we provide sports nutrition products, nutrition training, awards, and incentives to support the top athletes bound for international and regional competitions, such as the Olympic Games, the Asian Games, and the Southeast Asia Games.

Through the course of our nutrition partnership with Vietnam sports, we have witnessed the incredible breakthroughs of Vietnam sports and the dedication of their sports teams and athletes, who grow stronger with each sporting competition. We are honoured to be part of this amazing journey and will continue to help athletes maximise the benefits of sports nutrition to achieve optimal performance.

I am also incredibly impressed by the achievements of our distributors who not only bring our nutrition products into communities but also provide personalised coaching and social support to inspire people to pursue a healthy active lifestyle, supported by good nutrition. Together with our distributors, we are proud to help address nutrition needs for more people in Vietnam to result in a stronger and healthier generation of Vietnamese.

local consumer trust at heart of herbalife successes
Herbalife Vietnam providing nutrition sponsorship to top Vietnam athletes

What major initiatives is Herbalife Nutrition planning to roll out around the globe in 2021?

We are excited about our future. The personal nutrition industry has many opportunities for growth, including adding to our product line and deploying technology that will help our distributors scale their business more efficiently and effectively.

While our brand was founded in weight management, our product portfolio crosses different categories. Sports nutrition is a category where we have built a strong brand but also have an opportunity to gain share by expanding both our product portfolio and geographic reach.

We also have a focus on localised product offerings that meet the taste and unique ingredient desires from around the world. This is a key strategy for us as we operate in so many countries with so many unique flavour profiles and ingredient preferences depending on where you are in the world.

Technology is also an area of growth. By putting more technology and tools into the hands of our distributors, we’re helping them build their businesses more effectively, securely, and efficiently. Given the current environment, technology has become even more important to our business as our distributors have embraced the use of technology to stay connected with their customers when certain face-to-face interactions may be limited. We will invest more in infrastructure to better facilitate the business activities of our distributors.

How does Herbalife Nutrition prioritised corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability for now and the future?

Our efforts to drive positive impacts for our employees, independent distributors, communities, and the planet while driving sustainable business growth, encompassing every aspect of our business.

We are committed to improving lives and communities through Herbalife Nutrition Foundation, helping eradicate hunger through our global initiative Nutrition for Zero Hunger; helping expand economic opportunities to those in underrepresented communities; reducing our use of plastic; committing to zero net emissions by 2050, and supporting our distributors’ efforts to implement sustainable practices in their businesses.

In Vietnam, we are dedicated to giving back to the community. Through our Herbalife Nutrition Foundation, we have established four Casa Herbalife Nutrition programmes in the country, providing healthy nutrition and nutrition education to about 1,000 children in need. Recently, we launched a “Nutrition for Zero Hunger” STAR Program to inspire more than 300 children to eat healthily and exercise regularly. We are glad to see the children who participated in the programme have started to embrace a healthy active lifestyle at an early age.

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