Amway in the 1970s: Nutrilite joins the Amway family

A Nutrilite Products Inc. sign sits atop an Edith Rehnborg Cosmetics sign in 1965, before Amway acquired Nutrilite.

Editor’s note: 2019 marks Amway’s 60th anniversary. We’re celebrating with a series of blogs highlighting the company’s history, milestones, products and legacy. Join the conversation by leaving a hashtag comment on each blog. Published comments will be entered into a drawing for free products in our Amway through the Decades Giveaway*!

The Ja-Ri Corp.

When Jay Van Andel and Rich DeVos launched Amway in 1959, it was not their first venture into direct selling.

Working under the name Ja-Ri Corp., the pair had been active distributors for a small supplement company known as Nutrilite Products Inc., rising in the ranks to be among the company’s top sellers. In fact, the Amway business model was designed largely after what they saw as the successful parts of the Nutrilite model.

Jay Van Andel and Rich DeVos crouch in front of Nutrilite Founder Carl Rehnborg and his wife, Edith, in this historical photo taken outside Nutrilite headquarters from when Jay and Rich were Nutrilite distributors.

Visionaries

Sam Rehnborg, Ph.D., son of Nutrilite Founder Carl Rehnborg and president of the Nutrilite Health Institute, remembers when his father first introduced him to Rich and Jay at a Nutrilite distributor meeting.

“I was about 14 or 15 at the time and my dad pointed out these two young fellas in the back of the room,” said Sam, known in Amway circles as Dr. Sam. “He said, ‘You see those two young fellas? They’re really doing a bang-up job at Nutrilite and I think they’re going to be very successful in the business.’”

Dr. Sam said his dad called them over and they talked, asking him all sorts of questions about his schooling, his father and what he thought of the business.

“I never forgot how enthusiastic they were about the Nutrilite business and how wonderfully they spoke of my father and what he was doing,” Dr. Sam recalled. “They could see the benefit of the product, but one thing they also saw was the tremendous potential of the business side of it.

“The best people to sell your product are those who are using the product. That’s what drives repeat business.”

Seeing opportunity

Later, even as they built Amway on the strength of home and beauty products, Rich and Jay continued to sell Nutrilite products. In the early 1970s, as the nutrition market was expanding, they wanted something their Amway distributors could sell.

Jay put the Amway research and development team on the task, but they soon found they couldn’t come up with anything to rival Nutrilite products with their plant concentrates developed through years of research by Carl Rehnborg on his sustainable farms.

Dr. Sam had long since joined the family business and he and Rich would talk as they ran into each other at industry events. In 1972, those discussions eventually led to a business agreement that allowed Amway to fill a hole in its product offerings and allowed Nutrilite to expand its sales beyond the United States.

Dr. Sam Rehnborg, son of Nutrilite founder Carl Rehnborg, stands in front of shelves of Nutrilite products in this historical photo from Nutrilite's early years.

Continued success

Sales of nutrition products now account for more than half of all global product sales for Amway, and Nutrilite is the world’s number one selling vitamins and dietary supplement brand†.

“When we joined Amway, we were just in the U.S.,” Dr. Sam said. “Now we’re in markets all over the world. That’s huge. And the world is slowly awakening to the idea that the best way to tackle most of the problems is to make better choices in the first place. That’s what Nutrilite is all about.”

What’s your hashtag?

What does the Nutrilite story mean to you? What hashtag would you use to describe how Nutrilite and Amway joined forces? What hashtag describes Rich and Jay’s decision to acquire Nutrilite?

Post your hashtag comment below and be entered to win a 31-day refill pack of Nutrilite™ Double X™ Vitamin/Mineral/Phytonutrient Supplement. And come back to Amway Connections for more blogs marking Amway’s 60th anniversary and opportunities to win our Amway through the Decades Giveaway*!


†Source: Euromonitor International Limited. *The Amway through the Decades Giveaway is sponsored by Amway Corp. and runs from April 18 – July 1, 2019. No purchase necessary. See official rules here.

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