How an innovative idea can lead to an innovative organisation

Over the years, Herbalife has expanding the business to become a global brand.

Over the years, Herbalife has expanding the business to become a global brand.

Published Sep 22, 2023


Konrad Szałkiewicz, Herbalife Country Director Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia & South Africa discusses the need for organisations to encourage collaboration and innovation for their growth.

The Herbalife business began with one man and a new idea – to give people something they wanted but in a way that hadn’t been done before. This man was Mark Hughes, our founder, leader and first Herbalife distributor.

His plan was simple, to create great-tasting, science-backed weight control products and to sell them directly to the customer but with the added bonus of working with them to use our products as part of a healthy, active lifestyle. Back in the early 1980s this was innovative – a new way of direct selling with lifestyle coaching and a supportive community built in.

Fast forward 40 years and Mark Hughes’ concept is now the reality of millions of Herbalife distributors in over 90 markets globally – people whose passion for a healthy, active lifestyle has become a business.

These dedicated individuals have not only built sales teams and businesses for themselves but each day mentor their customers and organisations to live their best lives. Their customers get the supportive community and motivation they need to achieve their health goals, whether it’s one-to-one coaching or joining fitness and nutrition clubs.

This spirit of ripping up the rule book and treading your own path not only drives our distributors but corporate Herbalife too, where ‘we build it better’ is one of our core values. Over the years, we’ve built on those early innovative years by expanding the business to become a global brand, achieving net sales of US$5.2 billion in FY2022.

We’ve moved into new product categories beyond weight management to include skin care, targeted nutrition and sports nutrition – with the latter being used by elite athletes across the world. We’re also proud to employ the best in innovative, cutting-edge technology and scientific research to create over 2,000 products at our six manufacturing facilities, supported by our eight quality control laboratories, which have the highest level of accreditation (ISO 17025) reflecting our strict adherence to industry-leading standards.

It didn’t happen by accident

Our model gives us direct access to our market and we continually listen to and learn from our distributors and their customers. Our innovation and new ideas have a genuine need behind them. As our recent video series ‘Inside Herbalife’ reveals, feedback from our distributors is key to knowing how to innovate. Yes, we look at valuable marketing data and insights, but Herbalife distributor and customer focus groups have always guided our planning. It’s our distributors who can tell us where the gaps in the market lie and, most importantly, how we can help them serve their customers better.

Keeping the entrepreneurial and innovative spirit alive

Some companies kick off with innovation at their heart; think of Netflix revolutionising how we consume content or Apple’s ‘design first’ philosophy, but for companies who have been around for decades like Herbalife, innovation needs to be continuously woven into their DNA. Whether it’s LEGO using partnerships with culturally relevant brands to reignite their consumers’ love of their products or Disney’s ability to consistently reinvent its characters to tap into the zeitgeist, a desire to evolve is ever present in our business.

To keep innovation alive, we have a global innovation programme called ‘The Greenhouse’ – an online forum where our employees can propose new ideas and invite comments from others to help develop and test these ideas. These iterations can lead to powerful results which drive value for our organisation.

At our distribution centre in Venray, Netherlands, the entire workforce is encouraged to spend at least 20% of their time thinking outside of the box at our ‘innovation bootcamps’ where they come up with creative ideas that could help improve our business. We believe that a good idea can come from anyone and from anywhere.

Innovation isn’t just about making more products. We’re committed to developing our processes and services to enhance our sustainability credentials and ensure that we’re kinder to the planet.

One particularly fantastic idea that came from the Venray team now sees them working in partnership with an animal feed manufacturer that takes unsold Formula 1 Meal Replacement Shakes that would otherwise be disposed of – and uses it in their products, helping us to create a more circular approach to waste.

Innovate everywhere and on every platform

Herbalife is a brand that constantly pushes boundaries and embraces emerging trends and technologies to ensure every aspect of the business thrives. Whether it is creating products using innovative new protein sources and ingredients or developing a new end-to-end digital platform that will make serving their customers and managing their businesses so much easier for our distributors, we are constantly looking to be at the forefront of the latest thinking.

This digital transformation will equip our distributors with the tools that make starting, managing and growing a modern business easier, so that they can focus on working with even more people to achieve their wellness goals. Again, to accomplish this, we’re working hand-in-hand with distributors and their customers to ensure that we’re addressing their needs.

Get innovative! But how?

When an organisation has grown from a start up to a fully-fledged corporation, it can be tempting to put your employees into boxes through the structure of departments, like marketing, sales and finance. When you're searching for a tech solution, you’ll likely head to the IT department; if you need a better way to package a product, you’ll likely ask your design engineers. Instead, take a new approach by encouraging all departments to collaborate – you’ll be amazed at what people can come up with and from totally new perspectives.

To be ready for growth, I strongly believe that organisations must encourage collaboration and ideas generation, invest in systems that make doing business easier and celebrate innovation successes large and small to show that you value them. By creating a culture that values innovation, you can help your business stay ahead of the rest and achieve long-term success.

With a dedication to innovation, Herbalife continues to deliver meaningful products and solutions that help it to succeed whilst leaving a positive impact on the world, which we know Mark Hughes would be proud to see.

To learn more about Herbalife Nutrition and the innovative products that prioritise collaboration and testing, visit