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The USANA Difference!

August 17, 2011

Every now and then we come across a really good article about USANA and we feel we just HAVE to share it with our readers to help them better understand why we are so passionate about the products we offer and the lifestyle we live. Below is one of those MUST READ articles from a fellow USANA consultant – please read on, share and ENJOY! Lora Ulrich – The New You Lifestyle.

USANA from a Consultants Perspective.

I’ve worked as a consultant for the past 25 years helping companies improve their manufacturing, operations, quality, and managing their Product Lifecycle Management (PLM). I’ve worked with a number of process manufacturing companies such as Starbucks, Darigold, Philosophy, numerous pharmaceutical companies, and others including USANA. I’ve also worked with several other MLM companies as well.

My wife, Claudia, and I are also very happy USANA customers and have reached the rank of Director with USANA.

Below is my perspective on USANA from walking the plant floor, and hanging out in the quality labs as well as meeting with management. I’ll compare what I’ve seen at USANA compared to other supplement, pharmaceutical, and MLM companies.

USANA Quality – Overall USANA is one of the best run and best-managed companies I have worked with. They are on par or better than most of the prescription pharmaceutical companies and far superior to other supplement manufactures. I’m not referring to the executive level, but down on the plant floor, in the warehouse, in R&D, and in the quality labs. USANA frequently
presents at conferences with many other similar companies in attendance and I’ve had pharmaceutical companies call and ask USANA for assistance in improving their operations. It is one thing to say your are the best, but when prescription pharmaceutical drug companies call a little MLM vitamin company for advice, that says volumes about the sophistication of USANA’s operations.

I’ve spent days inside USANA on the other side of the glass wall on the manufacturing floor, in the quality labs, and in the warehouse and it is sad to say, but USANA management of their production process and attention to detail and quality is far superior to some of the pharmaceutical drug plants I’ve been in. Should I ever get gravely ill, there are some drugs I will refuse to have injected into my body because of what I’ve seen in their operations. On the other hand I’d have no qualms dissolving a USANA supplement and injecting it.

To contrast USANA with one supplement manufacturer I visited. We walked in from the parking lot into the warehouse and ran our hands through product which was mixed and ready for capsule filling. We didn’t put any protective clothing, hair nets, or gloves on. We then went into the dispensing area. One guy was by himself dispensing ingredients into a large tote. Nearby were the capsule filling machines – out in the open with someone smoking 20-30′ away and an open door to the outside nearby. Their batch ticket, the documentation they use to direct production and to record what was done was two pages long. Very common. Operators just checked off what they’d done. To top it off they had a pet dog which was running around the manufacturing area. They were very proud that they had passed their FDA inspection a week prior. This is perfectly acceptable food grade GMP manufacturing, well maybe not the dog, but if you were making pizzas, hamburgers, cheese, cookies, dog food, this is fine (Just without the dog). It was sad because their ingredients were decent and they rank about at 3 in the Comparative Guide, but this how most of the competition manufactures their products.

USANA on the other hand is quite different from most supplement plants. I hope you’ve seen the tour at the main office. Everyone is in shop coats, booties, hair nets, gloves, etc.; HEPA filtered
positive pressure air in the manufacturing area, etc. – Like a pharmaceutical drug company. The batch ticket to make say the Chelated Minerals tablet is 112 pages long! At every single step one person does the work, or records a setting (pressure, temperature, speed, weight, etc) and a second person double verifies and both sign. When ingredients are weighed and dispensed this is done in a
sealed room to eliminate any chance of the airborne particles contaminating another batch of product. During tablet pressing quality tests samples of the tablets every 30 minutes and uses statistical process control to insure the tablets stay within acceptable ranges. When the batch is completed Quality Control reviews every entry on that 112 page document as well as performing chemical and bacteriologic tests on the finished product.

At USANA every single lot of ingredients received is subjected to over a dozen quality tests to test both the chemical properties, the purity, and the absence of bacterial contamination. In contrast
most supplement manufactures may randomly test incoming ingredients and they will test the finished product for bacterial contamination, but rarely will they test the chemical properties.

Many companies use sub-contractors to produce their products. This is very common. Many smaller pharmaceutical companies focus on R&D and getting the FDA approval then they subcontracted
out the production. Others will use subcontractors to handle the overload. These subcontractors will produce anything you want and to your specs. They may be producing a pharmaceutical drug one day, a generic OTC drug the next, and after that a pet supplement. Is the pet supplement produced the same as the pharmaceutical drug? Probably not, unless they specified it and wanted to pay for the added cost. Most of these subcontractors are very good and will produce the product the customer orders. To use a simple analogy, We probably all live in houses. There are multi-million dollar mansions and there are economical starter homes. The same construction crew can build either one and everything in-between. The difference is in the drawings, plans, and material specifications. One house may call for very expensive granite counter tops, the other formica. Like a sub-contractor, this construction crew can build anything the customer wants.

USANA’s advantage of in-house production is that they can closely monitor and control the product quality and every step of the process. They aren’t depending on someone else to give them the assurance that the ingredients and the product are to their specifications, they know it is produced to their exacting standards.

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) – USANA implemented one of the most advanced PLM applications available. This is a software package used by multi billion dollar companies to manage their new product introductions, product changes, packaging and labeling, etc. Like their manufacturing operations USANA is now assisting other companies with their PLM efforts – They are a leader. As we know, USANA is hyper-focused on product quality and the product development process.

We’ve seen e-mails from USANA and have heard on some of our teams calls that there is no compromising product quality or not providing the associates and customers with the best and safest product available.

Two examples come to mind:

  • Management wanted to drop the shampoo and conditioner because USANA wasn’t making much profit on it. To most companies this would be a done deal. Dr. Wentz though asked if there was a comparable product available on the market for the USANA customers to switch to. Management came back and said “No, there isn’t” so Dr. Wentz said USANA would continue to produce the shampoo and conditioner.
  • Procosa II – I remember an e-mail saying that the Procosa II price was going to be increasing because of a price increase in the raw materials. So rather than finding a lower cost (and lower
    quality) supplier, or putting less of that ingredient in, the price was increased. Absolute refusal to compromise the product.

To contrast this with another MLM company I met with regarding PLM, they could care less. They had their few products and they said they could really introduce any new product and the distributors would buy it and push it down through their downline to increase the volumes to drive commissions, so it really didn’t matter too much at all what the product was.. As one of their high-ranking distributors (my neighbor) told me, “This is all about the money, the product just makes it legal.”

This product is really no different from what you buy at the grocery store or Costco for 1/10th the price, but they can make a lot of money with the much higher price and selling it through MLM gives them a captive customer base.

Pyramid vs Thinly Veiled Pyramid vs Product focused MLM – Pyramid, the question we all dread dealing with. But let me delve into the last two in more detail to see how USANA compares to some other companies.

  • Pyramid Scheme – We all know a pure pyramid scheme is illegal, where there is no product and you only make money from the recruiting fee.
  • Product Focused MLM – These are companies we know well and have withstood the test of time: Mary Kay, Tupperware, Amway (cleaning products) etc. Including USANA. These are
    legitimate companies who have good and valuable products which there is independent consumer demand for and pure customers will buy and use the products over and over without any concern of a commission check. Looking at our organization we have far more PCs than associates. We have a drawer full of Tupperware because they are good products. These companies focus on producing a product and MLM is just the sales and marketing part of the company.
  • Thinly Veiled Pyramid – Now here is where things blur. The most obvious is the e-book type of scheme, your selling an e-book of questionable value, just to drive money through the
    “pyramid” The only difference between this an a pure pyramid scheme, is that there is a product, but of questionable value. The next step is the company which does have a product, but it is often very low-cost and sold at a premium price. One company I’ve talked to had a lot of hype around the product, but no substance to back it up. If you looked a the product you can buy an almost identical product in the store for $2.00, but they sell if for over $20.00, and it costs them less than fifty cents to make. When you look at their presentation it is 3-4 minutes about the products, then 45 minutes about the compensation plan. All they talk about is all the money you can make. So what is the basis of this company? Is it about getting a good product to the
    consumer, or is it about churning money through the comp plan? I think it is the later. As my neighbor said the product only makes it legal.

So when you look at an MLM company and its products, really dig into the product, dig past the claims and hype to see if the quality of the product justifies its price if it were on a store shelf, or what are comparable retail products selling for? Take USANA Essentials for example, there are plenty of independent third-party accolades about the quality and potency. Yes, USANA is far more
expensive than what you’ll find at Costco, but compare it to the other products which were awarded the Nutrisearch Gold Medal of Achievement and USANA is comparably priced.

Ingredient Labels – Part of the PLM process is producing the Supplement Facts Label which you see on the back of every bottle. It doesn’t really matter what is on the front of the box/bottle, or in the catalog, it is what is on the bottle that matters. If you look at the USANA Chelated Minerals facts panel you’ll see the serving size, then below that all the Active Ingredients, such as Copper (as Copper Gluconate) 1 mg. That says there is 1 mg of Copper Gluconate in every 2 tablet serving. Now look down below in the “Other Ingredients” section. These are ingredients which help the tablet stick together, make it easier to swallow, but the key is they have no, or negligible, impact on the ingredients listed above. So where it says Sodium Citrate, this does not add a dietary significance amount of sodium to the tablets. I had a prospect who was on a severely sodium restricted diet and posed this to the Ask the Scientists and they replied back that it would not affect her diet, it was of dietary insignificance.Since few consumers really understand the nutrient fact panel you can play games and make something look better than it is. Lets look at a few key sections which are part of the

Supplement Facts:

Supplement Facts: This section lists the serving size, nutrients, weights of each, and the %DV. Here like USANA lists Copper as Copper Gluconate. So you know which form of copper is used, the amount and the %DV. You could also list multiple forms of an ingredient so, USANA says Calcium (As Calcium Citrate and Carbonate). So you know there are two forms and listed in descending weight order.

  • Ingredients: Optionally a company can list just Copper in the fact panel then in the ingredients list they list all the ingredients in decreasing weight order. So someplace in that list it would say copper gluconate, Copper oxide, etc. or could list both. What if they don’t list the form of copper (chelate, salt, or oxide) well then you don’t know, but a good rule of thumb is that if they don’t specify which, then they probably used the cheapest form and unfortunately the cheapest form is usually has the poorest absorption.
  • Other Ingredients: This is officially outside of the nutritional fact panel and is intended to list the other ingredients used in the tableting or encapsulation process, flavors, sweeteners, etc. So ingredients which don’t add to the weight or %DV of the listed nutrients – Like the Sodium Citrate in the USANA example above. What some companies do to hide the poor quality of their ingredients is add a nutritionally insignificant amount of high quality ingredients to the product and list them in the Other Ingredients section. This is commonly referred to as “Pixie Dust”. This way they get a high quality ingredient on the label and don’t disclose what the real source of each vitamin, mineral, and nutrient are.


Mike Hall

About Mike Hall –

Mike Hall graduated from UCLA with  undergraduate degrees in bio-chemistry and psycho-biology and has MBA from the  Claremont Graduate School.  For the past 25 years Mike has been consulting  with manufacturing companies to help improve their manufacturing operations,  product quality, and streamline new product development.  More recently Mike’s  focus has been on process manufacturing companies and has consulted with  numerous pharmaceutical, bio-tech, food & beverage, and nutraceutical companies. Some common names he has worked with include Uncle Ben’s Rice, Kal Kan Pet food, Starbucks, Darigold, Philosophy, and USANA.  Through this work Mike has also worked with several MLM companies and brings a unique perspective of the industry from the inside.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. August 30, 2011 4:27 pm

    Great webpage. I am a USANA Associate too and am learning how to make my own webpage.

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