Swanson Health Products
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|Headquarters||Fargo, North Dakota|
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Swanson Health Products (SHP) is a natural health catalog and Internet marketing company headquartered in Fargo, North Dakota. The company sells natural health and wellness products, including health foods, dietary supplements such as vitamins, minerals, herbs, as well as natural personal care products direct to consumers through mail-order catalogs and an e-commerce website. Swanson Health Products is The United States' largest privately held vitamin catalog retailer and is one of Fargo’s major employers with an estimated workforce of 500 employees.
Swanson Health Products was started in 1969 in Fargo by Leland Swanson Sr. A self-taught natural health enthusiast, Swanson was heavily influenced by Dr. Linus Pauling, Dr. Irwin Stone, Dr. Roger J. Williams, Paul Bragg, and Adelle Davis, all pioneers in the natural health and nutraceutical movement.
Swanson’s personal supplementation regimen began with vitamin E, which he ordered from one of the first health supplement outlets in the country, Sturdee Health Products, the nation’s oldest mail order vitamin supplier at the time. By 1968 he was a regular user of several vitamins and supplements and began ordering them in bulk to maintain his own supply. Not long after he decided to test the market himself and ordered 5,000 vitamin E capsules from a manufacturer in Ohio, purchased an advertisement in Capper’s Weekly Magazine and began selling supplements through the mail. Shortly thereafter, he was putting together small catalogs of his own to mail out to potential customers.
By 1980, SHP was operating with about 10 employees out of a storefront in downtown Fargo, ND. In 1982 the company moved its mail order manufacturing and shipping operations to a 15,000 sq ft (1,400 m2) facility. In the 1990s, the development of the SHP website, swansonvitamins.com, opened another sales channel for the company. SHP moved into a new 120,000 sq ft (11,000 m2) facility in 2001, finally housing its call center, customer care center, marketing, manufacturing, storage and shipping operations all under one roof, while still maintaining the original storefront in downtown Fargo.
In 2009, SHP announced a $10 million, 100,000-square-foot (9,300 m2) addition to the company’s headquarters in Fargo, as well as the acquisition of a 50,000-square-foot (4,600 m2) order fulfillment center in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to improve shipping times to east coast customers. That facility opened in May 2010, while the Fargo expansion was completed in August 2010. The Harrisburg facility relocated to nearby Middletown, PA, in 2014.
In April 2011, SHP announced the opening of a second regional distribution center. The 52,500-square-foot facility, located in the Spanish Springs Business Center of Sparks, NV, allows for one- or two-day delivery times to customers on the west coast.
Also in 2011, the Swanson Health Products’ retail store acquired the business space adjacent to its location in downtown Fargo, ND. Final renovations and remodeling, completed in the fall of 2011, have doubled its retail space and now includes more freezer and refrigeration space for healthy foods.
With all sites now completed and operational, the company employs over 500 people.
In January 2016, Leland Swanson, Jr. retired and SHP was acquired by Swander Pace Capital, a private equity firm specializing in investments in growth-oriented, middle-market consumer products companies. Leland Swanson, Jr. remains involved as a consultant for SHP new product development.
Products and quality control
Swanson Health Products carries over 26,000 products, ranging from vitamins and supplements to "eco-friendly" home cleaning products. The company has more than 20 Swanson-branded lines that cover the full spectrum of natural health products, as well as some OTC drugs and organic foods. Since 2001, SHP has voluntarily participated in independent third-party Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) audits to maintain high-quality finished products. SHP regularly submits its dietary supplements to ConsumerLab.com testing for a thorough, third-party review of product safety and efficacy. Consumer lab has tested only 25 of Swanson's 26,000+ supplements as of 9/8/2016. In yearly surveys of over 10,000 supplement users, Swanson Health Products was voted America’s #1 rated catalog/Internet brand based on customer satisfaction (2012, 2014, 2015) and #1 rated catalog/Internet merchant (2011, 2013, 2014, 2015).
Swanson Health Products has had a few encounters with the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which oversees the natural health industry’s marketing and labeling of dietary supplements to ensure they are not labeled as unapproved drugs. Most recently, in 2007 SHP received a warning letter from the FDA stating that the company was selling an unapproved version of the prescription cholesterol drug called Mevacor. FDA laboratory analysis determined that two of SHP’s red yeast rice supplements contained significant amounts of lovastatin, the active ingredient in Mevacor and its generic counterparts. The FDA letter stated, “Because Red Yeast Rice and Red Yeast Rice/Policosanol Complex contain red yeast rice with enhanced or added lovastatin and bear claims about lipid control and other cardiovascular benefits supplied by this ingredient, they cannot be marketed as dietary supplements.”
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