Interview with Nutri Advanced Founder and Owner Ken Eddie on Celebrating 40 Years Of Business
This article was accurate at the time of publication: 2nd June 2021.
Nutri Advanced is 40 this year. The company has grown from a family team with Norman Eddie, his wife Barbara, and his two sons Ken and David back in 1981, to a team of 39 today. And it’s not just the team that has grown, the company has evolved significantly in size and stature over the last 40 years too. Who better to talk to about this remarkable achievement; to tell the story of how it started and to share some of the highlights along the way, than Ken Eddie – one of the original founders of the business who still leads the company today. It’s always fascinating to talk to business founders, especially when they are still sitting right at the helm, and there are many ‘best bits’ of this interview. One thing that particularly struck me though as I was talking to Ken, was how even with significant growth and change over 40 years, he has managed to keep as business constants the ethos and values that motivated him and his family to start Nutri Advanced in the first place. Back in 1981, when the company very first started, Ken and his father Norman were driven by a desire to supply the highest quality products and provide the best education; all under the umbrella of excellent customer service. It is testament to the strength of commitment to this, that these values and ethos are still at the beating heart of the company today. And in fact, this is consistently what customers say when they talk about Nutri Advanced too. Here’s to 40 years in business for Nutri Advanced! Grab a cuppa, join the celebration and enjoy this inspiring read.
RB: Thank you for taking the time to talk to me today Ken. You must feel proud to be celebrating 40 years in business this year. What an achievement! So the obvious first question has to be, where did it all start?
KE: My father was a very forward-thinking osteopath and naturopath; that’s where my interest in health and nutrition came from. Back then he was frustrated at the lack of availability of specialist nutrition supplements to support his patients’ health. He knew what he wanted but couldn’t get hold of the right products in the UK. The only way to solve this problem was to source high quality products from overseas (mainly the US). He got great results using these products, even with patients with really serious health issues. And because of the success he was having with his patients, he was featured in the national newspapers. At the same time, many likeminded practitioners were also frustrated and in need of a similar solution. He started to get enquiries from colleagues; they wanted to know what he was doing differently. At that point my father and I joined together with his wife Barbara and my brother David who all worked seeing patients in the clinic and started to import these specialist supplements; that way he could integrate them more easily into his clinic and we could also share these more widely with practitioners in the UK. The first brands we brought into the UK from the US were ‘VM Nutri’ and ‘Spinal Touch’ and back then, a lot of the product ranges were designed for practitioners involved in kinesiology.
I literally spent 5 days a week on the road, driving up and down the country – from Land’s End to John O’ Groats trying to find likeminded people. In those days it was actually much harder to find people with an interest in nutrition; there were a few, but not that many.
I remember our very first customer. His name was Bob Cambridge; he was a naturopath and osteopath based in Ambleside; a really lovely man who sadly passed away a few years ago. I drove to the Lake District to meet him in his clinic and show him our supplement range, he placed an order (our very first order!) and I drove back to deliver it in person! That was the start of Nutri Advanced.
RB: What was the driving ethos for Nutri Advanced when you first started?
KE: Seeing the incredible results my father was getting in his own clinic by using specialist high quality products was really what drove us to start. We wanted to make these specialist products more widely available and help other people to use them so they could get similar results. That’s why we started Nutri Advanced.
There weren’t many sophisticated products around at all back then. We were bringing products into the UK that no-one had heard of, and that no-one really knew what they did or what they were for. As we met more practitioners and our customer base grew, we soon realised that many didn’t have the level of nutrition knowledge to enable them to make best use of the products; they really wanted to learn more. That’s why we started running professional education events, and why our commitment to education has continued to this day. We started running seminars in our very first year; and we’d have somewhere between 25 – 40 people attending each time. I travelled widely to attend education events myself and then invited speakers back to the UK to share their expert knowledge with our customers. This is where my own education came from, and still does to this day.
Customer service was really important from day one too; building relationships with our customers, meeting them in-person and helping them to use the products. And this commitment to first class customer service, along with selling the highest quality products and providing the best education has continued to this day. I’m proud to say that we have many long-standing customers who have been with us now for 25, 30 or 40 years!
RB: Can you pick out some key moments in the company’s development over the last 40 years?
KE: There have been so many highlights and key moments, it’s difficult to pick just a few but I think the following have been really important milestones for us as a company:
• Introduced Applied Kinesiology into the UK & Developed Clinical Kinesiology – In the very early days of the business, we brought world class applied kinesiology speakers into the UK; the founder of applied kinesiology, George Goodheart, Dr Paul White, Dave Walther and Wally Schmidt. These practitioners really led the kinesiology revolution and I’m proud to say we introduced them into the UK. Following on from that we became involved in developing the Clinical Kinesiology System with Alan Beardall, Richard Holding and Chris Smith. Alan Beardall sadly passed away but was an incredible practitioner and teacher. Richard Holding is now in his seventies and is still in practice in London. We’ve worked with Richard for nearly 40 years now, and only a few weeks ago we had a fascinating conversation about new product development.
• Meeting Jeff Bland – Perhaps one of the biggest moments for me was meeting Jeff Bland in Burford in The Cotswolds 30 years ago. We immediately hit it off; he decided we could become the UK distributor for his ‘Ultra’ range of functional foods and they were brilliant products; completely new to the UK market back then.
• Bringing Functional Medicine into the UK – Through Jeff Bland, I then attended the inaugural meeting of the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM) at Victoria in Canada, (IFM hadn’t even properly started back then) and I’ve attended pretty much every annual IFM conference since then (I think I’ve missed 4 out of 27!!) often with Frances Maes, who at the time owned Biodynamics in Belgium. We travelled all over the world to listen to Jeff speak! Jeff started the PLMI (Personalised Lifestyle Medicine Institute) group too; originally these meetings were by invitation only and I attended the first one – there were only about 50 people there back then. I’ve been privileged to meet and listen to some incredible speakers through the PLMI over the years and really have a lot to thank Jeff Bland for. I really wanted to bring these functional medicine teachings into the UK and invited Jeff Bland to speak at our events. The rest, as they say, is history; and he has now spoken for us almost every year since 1993 and most recently in 2019 at ‘The Science of Health’. I am incredibly humbled when leading UK practitioners still come up to me at events and say thank you for introducing them to functional medicine and world-class speakers all those years ago. And many of them tell me that they credit that early education with influencing their career trajectory and helping them to get to where they are today.
• Bringing world-class speakers into the UK – After meeting Jeff Bland, I was introduced to many world class speakers who we then invited to come and speak in the UK. Roger Newman Turner introduced me to Dr Joseph Pizzorno who has spoken for us many times too; only very recently Dr Pizzorno’s wife Lara presented a brilliant webinar on bone health. I am so passionate about education and I am privileged to bring pioneering education into the UK to share with likeminded people. This has been a real highlight for me.
• Hosting large-scale educational events – Education has always been really important to me personally and to us as a company. Running large-scale education events takes a lot of time, effort and to be honest, is a big cost, but we love doing it. I’ve always enjoyed putting on new seminars and bringing new ideas and concepts into the UK marketplace.
• Connection with Eskimo and Metagenics brands – Becoming UK distributor for the Eskimo range of fish oils was a big turning point 25 years ago, and our longstanding connection with Metagenics is an important part of our business too. I’d rate Metagenics as one of the leading practitioner brands in the world.
• Developing our own range of products – When we first started the company, we imported specialist products into the UK, and then we realised that if we wanted to grow as a business we needed to develop our own product range too. This has been a really important step for us and now a large part of our sales come from our own range of products.
• Meeting my business partner Gary Courtenay at an educational event in 1996. Gary has been instrumental in helping to grow the Nutri Advanced business and we have worked together over the last 25 years to grow the business to where it is today.
• Brand evolution – The original Nutri logo was first inspired by the idea of a ‘new young tree’ and we worked with a graphic designer in the early days to develop this. The brand has evolved over the years and we had a major brand refresh 7 or 8 years ago to bring it up to date. We haven’t deviated too far from this original heritage though and it is still instantly recognisable as Nutri Advanced.
• Technology investment – We have invested heavily in technology over the last 5 years and whilst no-one could have predicted the events of the last year, this investment has stood us in good stead. 80% of our team moved to working from home but we retained the same high level of efficiency and have been able to continue delivering the highest quality products, education and excellent customer service over the past very difficult year. I’m really proud that we’ve been able to continue doing this at a time when our customers have needed us most. I think we would have struggled without the significant investment in technology we made.
RB: Looking back over 40 years, can you pick out some memorable highlights in the following areas?
KE: Education - I remember one annual functional medicine event in particular at The Lancaster Hotel in London in 2013; we hosted 5-6 speakers including Jeff Bland over 2 days and around 420 practitioners attended. I think it was the biggest event of its kind at the time and a real stand-out moment for me personally and for us as a company. Now the UK marketplace has developed significantly and there is a greater variety of quality products and education; I think perhaps in part because of some of the pioneering work we did in the early days and have continued to do so over the years. We have just been awarded the IHCAN Educators Award for Best Business Support Initiative for our Programmes. I am proud that we have been able to continue supporting practitioners with great education over the last very difficult year.
Products - We have developed many products in our own range; I am particularly proud of our Multi Essentials range of One-a-day multivitamin and mineral products and our MegaMag powdered magnesium range, and we are continuing to develop these. It’s always important to us to formulate the highest quality products which contain the most bioavailable and effective forms of nutrients. Our product development pipeline has grown from strength to strength over the years too, and is now really well planned out. We have a team and a system that works brilliantly. I’m really proud of this.
Customer service – Customer service has been incredibly important to us from day one. I know how I like to buy personally; I buy from people that I like and companies that I like to deal with. We do our own shopping at small independent shops in Sheffield; I’d much rather spend my money this way, than with a big chain of superstores, and it’s partly because of the service you get. That’s the kind of culture we’ve created here at Nutri Advanced and I’m really proud of that.
RB: What would you like to say to your customers in this landmark year?
KE: I want to say a very big thank you to every single one of our customers; this is all about you not me, and I’m so grateful for all your support over the last 40 years. Some customers have been with us for 25, 30, even 40 years! And new customers are joining us all the time. It’s a very big thank you to every single one of you! Without you, our loyal customers, this business wouldn’t be here and I want to thank you for keeping with us for all of these years. It’s been a privilege to share this journey with you all.
RB: What message would you like to give to your team?
KE: The success of this business is down to the team, it’s not about me as an individual, it’s about the whole team of people who work here. We have a really positive team and I want to say a very big thank you to every single one of you. Every department is fantastic, and the warehouse team have been incredible getting all the orders out over the past very difficult year. We have a celebration planned in July as a big thank you, which I’m really hoping can go ahead. Some people have just started with us and others have been with us for many years. I think we’ve created a great working atmosphere here; it’s a good place to work. This business is not built on the back of me, it’s built on the back of the team of people who work here. In fact, when we host events, the first thing customers say to me is, “thank you for being such a great company and what lovely people you have working for you.” I want to thank you all.
RB: And finally, what’s your vision for the future?
KE: The world is a very different place than it was when we started 40 years ago; and so much has changed; technology is an important part of our business now and it wasn’t when we started. I want us to continue to grow as a company and be recognised as a leader in the field. And I want us to always stay true to our founding ethos and values - to continue to be known as number one for the highest quality products – that when people take Nutri Advanced products they trust the brand and trust that whatever they are taking is the absolute best we can make it to be. I’ve never been interested in selling budget supplements; I might have grown a bigger company that way but that has never been my aim. My aim with the business has always been to sell the highest quality supplements that actually work, provide brilliant customer service and the best education; it still is today and that’s what I want for the future of Nutri Advanced too. I’m really looking forward to getting back to in-person events as soon as possible; we had a series of regional events planned before lockdown and I hope we are able to deliver those at some point too. I can appreciate the convenience of online learning and we’ve had to adapt to keep supporting our customers over the last year, but there’s nothing like meeting face-to-face, I think that real in-person connection is so important; it’s how we are meant to interact as humans. And I will always continue with my own education too; it’s so important to me personally, I say, “never stop learning” it’s been a lifelong motto of mine and I’ve always enjoyed sharing this with others too. Thank you again to everyone for all your support. Here’s to the next 40 years of Nutri Advanced!
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