Shake, Tea Rooms in Columbus Affiliated with Herbalife Culture
As wet car tires rolled along Thurman Avenue on a rainy Wednesday morning, Chelsea Bell, 26, shone the already clean stainless steel counters inside Blended & Blessed to start a day of slow work.
Across the room, a cursive-type menu listed drinks with flavors such as tiger lily tea, chocolate brownie shake, or strawberries and coffee with cream – offerings that don’t seem not healthy, but are made with protein powder and other nutritional supplements.
Blended & Blessed is the new kid on the block in German Village. The storefront, which opened in early May and offers shakes, energy teas and nutritious coffees, has taken over the lease of a former Native Cold Pressed location until next July.
Camryn Colter, 21, a senior at Ohio State University, manages the space as an independent Herbalife Nutrition club, selling dietary supplement drinks produced by the Los Angeles-based company.
What is a “nutrition club?”
Tiny storefronts that advertise shakes, teas, and similar coffees have started to dot more and more corners in Columbus neighborhoods and surrounding suburbs.
Like Blended & Blessed, these pop-up stores offering sweet flavored meal replacement drinks are often Herbalife Nutrition clubs.
Most clubs may not be visibly affiliated with the controversial nutritional supplement company Herbalife Nutrition, which uses an independent vendor tiered marketing model, similar to Amway or Arbonne. Herbalife has been investigated by the Federal Trade Commission for deceptive money-making claims.
Behind the counter, nutrition clubs are filled to the brim with white and green Herbalife-branded containers to use in menu items or sell direct to patrons.
Clubs are not, however, permitted to serve as franchises, retailers or official Herbalife restaurants, in accordance with its rules for nutrition clubs.
Herbalife places restrictions on distributors who hope to open a business club, including banning sellers from advertising that they offer Herbalife products and recommending that club operators tint their windows.
âIt makes it hard, as an owner, to say to yourself, ‘I promise I’m not shady. I’m just trying to play by the rules, âColter said.
Instead of operating as a retail establishment with a menu of products on sale, club operators can charge membership fees to nutrition clubs as well as a âconsumptionâ fee for people who drink shakes or drink. of teas at the club’s premises, said Humberto Calleja, Herbalife vice president for North America sales, events and promotions.
Between $ 12 and $ 16 at Blended & Blessed, you can get a shake and tea combo.
As the company calls for nutrition clubs to function as a personal meeting space rather than a business of any sort, the line is blurred. It’s hard to tell Blended & Blessed apart from any other store selling drinks or sweets.
Calleja said nutrition clubs accounted for nearly 70% of the company’s annual global sales, which stood at $ 5.5 billion in 2020. More than 70,000 clubs exist globally, including 9,900 in the world. United States. Herbalife is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
More than 30 nutrition clubs can be found in Columbus and its surrounding suburbs, according to Nutrition Club Network, a website that maps the geographic locations of Herbalife nutrition clubs. Some have been around for four years, while others – like Blended & Blessed – opened their doors last year, during the pandemic.
âAt first I struggled because we had to present who we are, what we do to the community,â Colter said. “I think everyone has their own opinions on multilevel marketing, and therefore standing up for what we’re doing was a bit difficult at first.”
Herbalife and other companies that operate with a similar business model have been around for decades. Through multilevel marketing, people who are not considered employees sell products for a company and often recruit other people to sell products as well.
In 2016, Herbalife came under fire after the FTC ordered it to pay $ 200 million to former independent distributors who lost money. Although the FTC did not call Herbalife a pyramid scheme, he ordered the company to restructure its business model from top to bottom so that less priority was given to independent distributors hiring people to sell products.
Although Blended & Blessed has a website with an online order form, most of the Herbalife Nutrition clubs are more under the radar, maintaining their presence on Instagram and Facebook.
Colter said she is an independent distributor of Herbalife because she and her family love their products, not because she hopes to reach the top. She doesn’t feel attached to the way Herbalife does business.
She added that selling Herbalife products and running a nutrition club is not the end for her.
“Never in my life have I said to myself, ‘Herbalife is what I want to do for the rest of my life,'” said Colter, who studies sports management and nonprofit management. Blended & Blessed plans to donate a portion of the profits to a different charitable cause each month; June donations will go to the LGBTQ youth advocacy organization The Trevor project.
Colter says she’s ready to answer any questions anyone might have.
âAll we can do is be truthful, honest and transparent at all times,â Colter said. âWe don’t have high bars. You can literally see everything we do.
Weight loss, a healthy lifestyle and COVID-19
Liz Weinandy, a registered dietitian at Wexner Medical Center, said social media apps can have an impact on the diet culture.
The pandemic has caused a resurgence of people looking online and offline for methods to lose weight, sometimes leading to what she believes are misguided solutions.
She said she stops to recommend products like those sold by Herbalife to patients.
âSupplements aren’t regulated, which has pros and cons,â Weinandy said. âYou or I could make any of these products in our basement or garage and sell them for that reason. “
More generally, meal replacements may offer short term results, but often don’t continue to work long term. She said lifestyle changes – getting exercise, adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet, and cutting out processed foods instead of introducing meal replacements or skipping meals altogether – are more sustainable.
âI always tell people, ‘You don’t have to do anything glamorous.’ Everyone thinks he has to participate in certain programs, spend a lot of money, follow strict regiments, and it really doesn’t have to be, âWeinandy said.