Are Amway products worth the price

Food supplements in direct sales

OBJECTIVELY INCORRECT WITHOUT ADVERTISING
Overdosed

Diet supplements are almost always superfluous. Why can you still do great business with them? In the test: Who sells these products and what do Amway, FitLine, Herbalife and Juice Plus customers actually get for their money?

  

You often feel weak lately. Even if you slept well at night, you can barely get out of bed in the morning. And already in the early afternoon you will be overcome with leaden tiredness. You are looking for something, any suitable remedy, that will bring you back into shape. A friend enthusiastically tells you about a product that helps her phenomenally against everyday ailments like yours. You go to the recommended homepage on the Internet and land on a page that appeals to you. You decide to take advantage of the advice they offer and give them a call.

Amway, Herbalife, FitLine, Juice Plus: no drugs

Anyone who picks up at the other end of the phone line is an employee of a company that uses sophisticated marketing and sales strategies to sell so-called dietary supplements - such as Amway, Herbalife, FitLine, Juice Plus. Food supplements are vitamins, minerals or trace elements in concentrated form or herbal and plant extracts that are offered as capsules, pills or juices. NEM are basically food. They can contain a wide range of nutrients and other ingredients. They are not medicinal products, even if it is often difficult to differentiate between them.

Who needs such preparations?

The answer is simple: no one who eats a reasonably balanced diet. The intake of individual concentrated nutrients can only make sense for people in special life situations such as pregnant women, chronically ill or high-performance athletes. But even that only under professional supervision.

Pills against a guilty conscience

But although the majority of people in this country get along very well without food supplements, they are anything but slow-moving. Most know about a healthy diet by now. And it is no longer a secret that exercise and sport help against many ailments. But with many the will is strong, but the flesh is weak. What remains is a guilty conscience, for which a few nutrients in pill form are quickly thrown in. But even people who eat optimally often take additional nutrients according to the motto "you never know" or "if it doesn't help, it doesn't do any harm".

What's in dietary supplements?

We can see from our reader inquiries how popular these products are now. Consumers always want to know from us what is in food supplements, whether we can recommend them or what we think of individual food supplements. A call to KONSUMENT readers a few months ago to tell us about their experiences with dietary supplements met with an enormous response.

So it's high time to see who the top dogs on the Austrian food supplements market are. What is being sold to the customer and with what arguments? What are the offered products made of? How do the consultations offered work?

Vemma doesn't answer

Most of our readers who contacted us had contact with the companies Amway, FitLine, Herbalife, Juice Plus and Vemma. So we put our testers on exactly these companies. Unfortunately, no contact was made with Vemma, of all people, who was mentioned to us the most and whose business model is almost unclear. Despite repeated inquiries, it was not possible to make an appointment. We can therefore not comment on the quality of Vemma's advice. With all other companies, however, the appointment arrangement worked without any problems.

Selling directly to the consumer

Amway & Co are among the direct sellers (see page 6 “The direct route”). They sell their products directly to consumers, without going through retailers. These companies are allowed to do a lot, but not everything. The legislature has expressly forbidden some practices. No seller is allowed to visit a customer to sell him a dietary supplement. Advertising events in private households, i.e. NEM parties, are also taboo.

Direct Selling Regulations

Regardless of the distribution channel, no dietary supplement may be advertised as being able to prevent, treat or cure diseases with it. The products may only be sold packaged and only contain certain minerals and vitamins. The recommended dose must be clearly stated on the packaging. Also a warning not to exceed this amount. It is also not permissible to claim that food supplements can replace a varied diet. Lots of regulations - do companies adhere to these guidelines or are they not very strict about it?

Consultants took a lot of time

When the talks were initiated, everything went smoothly. The consultants took a lot of time to explain the advantages of their products to us: Between half an hour (Amway) and 110 minutes (FitLine) were spent on it. All of our test subjects who stated that they felt tired and weak more often were each recommended the same dietary supplements. Only at Amway were there two different products.

No disease-related information

What we had not expected and which therefore surprised us very positively: Not a single consultant advertised his products with information about the disease. We can therefore not confirm the rumors that NEM are offered as a therapy against cancer, among other things. We were not told any medical histories or promised that the recommended pills and juices would prevent or alleviate illness. Some of what we got to hear, however, was "borderline". FitLine preparations, we have been reported, supposedly prevent colds. And with those from Amway, the advisor said, he would have his diabetes under control.

Fairy tale hour

Almost every consultant, on the other hand, told us the fairy tale of depleted soil, combined with the claim that our food therefore hardly contains any nutrients. Or the classic that we all now supposedly need significantly more vitamins and trace elements than a few years ago, if we don't want to age prematurely. It all sounds obvious, but lacks any scientific basis.

Sun influences the vitamin content in fruits and vegetables

In both conventional and organic agriculture, the soils are fertilized. How many nutrients are in fruit and vegetables depends primarily on the variety and the ripening process. To give an example of apples: on average, a Berlepsch contains significantly more vitamin C than a Gloster. How much sun a plant receives, when it is harvested and when the fruit is ultimately eaten also has an influence. If you buy fresh vegetables and then bunker them in the refrigerator for days, vitamins will be lost. Of course, nobody in the food supplements industry bothered with such annoying details. It also remains in the mystical darkness why our nutrient requirements have increased over the years and why acute aging should be threatened.

A balanced diet cannot be substituted

No counselor advised that you should speak to a doctor or nutritionist before taking dietary supplements. Juice Plus also considered a medical history to be completely superfluous. At this company, our test subjects were not asked any questions about the use of medication, allergies or intolerances. Only at Herbalife was it noted in every conversation that a dietary supplement can in no way replace a balanced diet. In stark contrast to this is FitLine, where there was no mention of it.

A remedy for everything

All NEM sellers got on the move when it came to the unbeatable advantages of their own product. Olympic and world champions rely on FitLine, top athletes and a well-known swimming star rely on Juice Plus, our testers were excitedly reported. And, without exception, all advisors assured us that they were taking the dietary supplements that we eventually bought from them. We believe your word for the latter! Everyone who works in this business field has to buy regularly from their direct sales company in order for money to flow.

Wedge clients as new consultants

We also found it astonishing that all of our testers were promised the same blessings over and over again: more fitness, more well-being, increased performance, no side effects - regardless of which food supplements company advised them and which products were recommended to them. Also noteworthy: Almost all salespeople tried to wedge the supposed customers as new advisors. You can read about the methods used here on page 7 “From customer to boar”.

Vitamin and mineral content compared

We didn't recruit, but we sold a lot. We determined the vitamin and mineral content of all purchased products. The values ​​were then compared with the recommendations of the Federal Ministry of Health. Result: At FitLine there were 8 different vitamins and minerals exceeded, at Amway, Juice Plus and Herbalife one each.

Overdosed

In addition, we compared the dosage suggestions made by the consultants with the D-A-CH reference values ​​for nutrient intake. (D-A-CH stands for Germany, Austria, Switzerland and is an amalgamation of the nutrition societies of these countries.) Here, too, the intake levels recommended by the experts were exceeded in some cases. With FitLine, 7 vitamins or minerals were overdosed, with Amway 4 or 3 and with Juice Plus 3. Even if all these nutrients are water-soluble and therefore not quite as problematic because they are excreted through the kidneys: Too many vitamins and minerals and trace elements is by no means harmless in the long term, as current studies show.

Preparations trigger an "energy boost"

At FitLine, our test subjects were given the recommended Activize Oxyplus during the conversation. The supposed customers should find out for themselves that the product works. Heat, a red head and red spots on the face and arms were the extremely unpleasant consequences. This was explained by the consultants with an "energy boost" triggered by the preparation. We assume that these complaints are mainly due to the high dose of niacin, a vitamin, contained in the product, but also to the added guarana and caffeine.

Brainwashing

In all of the discussions that were held for our investigation, one thing impressed the testers above all: all of the advisors had excellent rhetorical training. They knew exactly what to say and what not to say. They were able to address the other person on a very personal level without being intrusive. The product presentation was so skilful that even our experts believed in parts, against their better judgment, what they were being told. One of our test subjects described a completed consultation as “small brainwashing” when they were able to think clearly again. No wonder that an unbelievable 80 percent of all customers in direct sales buy at the latest with their second contact!

Here we have summarized for you what was suggested to our test subjects. We have also calculated what overdoses can occur when taking the remedies based on the recommendations.

Test result Amway

Companies: Was founded in the late 1950s and is still family-owned. Represented in many international markets. In addition to dietary supplements, the range also includes cosmetics, weight loss products, cookware and cleaning agents.

Consultation duration: 30 to 60 minutes

Suggested products: Nutrilite Double X package (Tester 1), Nutrilite Once a day, Nutrilite Vitamin C Plus (Tester 2)

Costs: Nutrilite Double X package € 74.23, Nutrilite once a day € 44, Nutrilite Vitamin C Plus € 50.16

Claimed Product Benefits: no chemistry, no artificial flavors, contains all the vitamins you need; increases activity and concentration, strengthens the immune system and promotes performance

Suggested intake duration: at least 4 weeks, preferably permanently

Overdose calculated by us: If taken daily, there is a risk of overdosing biotin, niacin, vitamins B1 and B2 and vitamin C.

FitLine test result

Companies: PM International AG was founded in Germany in 1993 by Rolf Sorg. Meanwhile active in around more than 35 other countries. In addition to food supplements that are supposed to help against premature aging, also offers cosmetics.

Consultation duration: 70 to 110 minutes

Suggested products: Power Cocktail, Restorate and Activize Oxyplus

Costs: 108.62 €, with team partnership discount of 20 to 30% (depending on the consultant)

Claimed Product Benefits: increases the oxygen content in the blood, optimal supply of the cells, improves concentration and overall well-being, increases performance

Duration of intake: at least 1 month, preferably permanently; Promised effect after a few days or 1 month

Overdose calculated by us: If taken daily, there is a risk of overdosing biotin, folate, pantothenic acid, vitamins B6 and B2, niacin and vitamin C.

Herbalife test result

Herbalife

Companies: Founded in 1980 by Mark Hughes in the USA. Huge trading company that operates internationally. In addition to dietary supplements, it also offers slimming and diet products as well as cosmetics.

Consultation duration: 80 to 90 minutes

Suggested products: Formula 1 (= shake), aloe vera drink concentrate, instant herbal drink containing caffeine with tea extracts

Costs: Shake € 51.56, aloe vera € 40.29, herbal drinks € 32.05; a total of 123.90 or 110 €, despite identical products!

Claimed Product Benefits: contains all nutrients and proteins; improves overall well-being, makes you agile, healthy and vital, increases personal fitness, can relieve tiredness

Duration of intake: from 1 month; Promised effect after 3 to 7 days

Overdose calculated by us: No. However, the testers were offered products that, according to the company's homepage, are intended for weight control.

Test result Juice Plus

Companies: NSA GmbH was founded in the USA in the 1980s. Also represented in Europe since the mid-1990s. Operates from Switzerland and offers nutritional supplements made from both fruit and vegetable extracts. Plus shakes, soups and chocolate bars (formula products) for weight management.

Consultation duration: 35 to 38 minutes

Suggested products: Juice Plus fruit, vegetable and berry capsules

Costs: 290 € for 4 months, 75 € for a monthly supply

Claimed Product Benefits: contains all nutrients, corresponds to 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day; makes you more active and efficient, improves the intestinal flora, creates well-being

Suggested intake duration: 4 months; but only works after 3 to 4 months because it is a natural product

Overdose calculated by us: If taken daily, there is a risk of overdosing folate, vitamin C and vitamin E.

Direct Selling: Selling to friends and relatives

Dietary supplements can be bought in pharmacies, drugstores and even in the supermarket. Since 2004 food supplements have also been allowed to be sold on the Internet. One sales channel is direct sales.

Direct sales are the sale of different products to customers outside a store, i.e. without the interposition of traditional retailers. As so-called consultants, the self-employed broker goods to customers in direct contact on behalf of a direct sales company.

Salesperson does not need specialist knowledge

To get into this business, the seller does not need any specialist knowledge, just a trade license, and off you go. Earnings are mainly made through commissions, i.e. the spread between the purchase and sales price for each product sold. By building networks, every salesperson tries to win additional customers (multilevel marketing).

Recruiting new consultants makes money

An additional source of income is the recruitment of new direct consultants and the development of additional sales lines (recommendation marketing). In contrast to the now forbidden pyramid scheme, in which only those who are there early win, while the late entrants almost always lose, in direct marketing the focus is on product sales and not on recruiting people.

From customer to boar

Flattery to begin with. The fact that a lot of money is made in direct sales, especially on the upper floors, has primarily to do with the business methods practiced here. During the sales talks, almost all consultants offered our testers an opportunity to join the company. Most tried to lure their supposed customers with flattery: "You are certainly a good seller."

The prospect of a second mainstay. In addition, the alleged financial advantages of switching from customer to boar were impressively presented. There was talk of a secure second financial pillar as well as great discounts on the purchase of in-house products. We declined with thanks, which was not always well received.

Fairytale career, fantastic earnings. The recruiting of new direct sellers is of course also on a large scale. We visited all tested companies and also Vemma events where new employees were wedged. The potential income that was calculated for us in a career in direct sales was magical. We got dizzy with all the Vice Presidents, Star Platinums, sponsors, sales coordinators and marketing plans listed as career levels.

Commission system. In truth, these grandiose terms are all about dressing up a brutal commission system. The further down the hierarchy, the smaller the margin that is left for the small seller in the end. And so that people don't give up in frustration, there is a sophisticated system of prizes and bonuses to keep them interested.

A list of 100 friends. The fact is: if you really want to earn money here, you have to invest a lot of time. With a few hours on the side, nothing works. In order to get to customers, one's own circle of friends and relatives must be mercilessly exploited. So we were given a form in which 100 (!) Friends and acquaintances had to be entered, from the best friend to the postman.

If you get out, you get pressure. Our testers apparently responded to the various offers. When they then wanted to withdraw from the sale within the specified period, they were exposed to massive social pressure. As easy as it is to enter this business, it is so difficult to get out of it.

Direct Selling Diet Supplements: Summary

  • Dispensable. Anyone who eats a healthy and balanced diet does not need any dietary supplements. A varied menu provides all the vitamins, minerals and trace elements you need.
  • Inferior? Dietary supplements are often sold with the argument that our soils are depleted and the food produced on them is poor in nutrients. None of this is true.
  • Overdose. Most of the products sold through direct sales are overdosed with some vitamins and minerals and also exceed the intake levels recommended by nutritionists.
  • Hit on. Almost all consultants tried to win our test subjects as new salespeople. Part of the commissions earned in direct sales are earned through referrals.
  • Questionable. Doctors also sold us nutritional supplements. Due to the relationship of trust, it is usually particularly difficult for the patient to refuse the offer or to ask for time to consider or to compare prices.

Test criteria

Two test persons - one older (65 years) and one younger (35 years) - registered for a consultation with a total of 5 direct sales companies (scenario precisely specified). The course of the consultation and the content of the conversation were recorded in minutes. In the case of direct sales (Vemma), no appointment could be made despite repeated inquiries.

Another two test persons surveyed the structure of these direct sales companies. They attended several events and showed interest in becoming a sales partner themselves. Their experiences were also recorded in a protocol.

Reader reactions

Cult-like

A few years ago I came across Herbalife. Hoping to lose those pesky pounds, I got involved in this "experiment". But only because of the money-back guarantee if you don't like it. At first, the products also tasted somewhat.

In the long run they were just too expensive for me, and every now and then you want to chew something and not just drink shakes. Finally, I turned to the saleswoman and brought all the products back to her. I was immediately intimidated and no longer treated as kindly. I was told that it had never happened before, that someone had given everything back, and that I should reconsider it because a healthy diet isn't cheaper either!

A meal there always costs at least € 3. Finally I got my money and broke off all contact. The whole thing seemed very cult-like to me. Conclusion: hands off!

Name of the reaction known
(from KONSUMENT 4/2013)