Founded in 1969, Swanson Health Products is the realization of one man’s dream of bringing wellness to the world. Today, Swanson Health Products carries on that dream, reaching millions of health-conscious people in the United States and around the world.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries millions of immigrants from around the world set sail for America and the hope of a better life. Germans, Italians, Irish and Russians headed for New York, Boston, Chicago and other large cities, while many Scandinavians settled in North Dakota and Minnesota on land that closely resembled their homesteads in Sweden and Norway.
August Swanson left his home in Sweden and headed to North Dakota in the mid-1890s, making his new home in Fargo. He met and married Selma Nelson and in 1915 their son Leland was born. Raised on the plains of North Dakota, Leland grew to appreciate nature and the beauty of wheat and barley fields waving in the summer breeze.
Leland and Verna Swanson just before Leland left for the South Pacific in World War II
An idyllic lifestyle in North Dakota in the 1930s was interrupted in the ‘40s. Like millions of other young American men, Leland answered his country’s call to serve in World War II. Just before he left for duty in the South Pacific, Leland married Verna Nelson and looked forward to the day he would return.
Leland made it through the war safely and was discharged from service in 1945. He returned to Fargo and took up life as a stockbroker, helping others invest in the new, booming future of America. Life couldn’t get much better. He and Verna started a family with sons Jay, born in 1948, and Leland, Jr. (Lee), born in 1951.
Golf was a passion for Leland Swanson. He enjoyed playing the game and, more importantly, he enjoyed the people he met on the course. But in the late 1950s Leland noticed it was becoming more difficult to play golf. Arthritis was setting in and Leland began looking for help. While local doctors were treating him, Leland wasn’t getting much relief and his focus turned to the study of health.
Leland began reading everything he could get his hands on that had anything to do with arthritis and health in general. He immersed himself in the writings of Paul Bragg and Adelle Davis, early pioneers in the natural health movement.
Paul Bragg is often called the “father of the health movement.” A dynamic crusader for worldwide health and fitness, Bragg created the first health foods and products; opened the first health food store and spa in America; pioneered health lectures across the country; introduced juice therapy in America and much more. He changed the lives of millions worldwide in all walks of life with his Bragg Health Crusades, books, radio and TV appearances.
Referred to as the “first lady of nutrition,” Adelle Davis was one of the country’s best-known nutritionists. She graduated from the University of California at Berkeley and took postgraduate work at Columbia University and the University of California at Los Angeles before receiving her Master of Science degree in biochemistry from the University of Southern California Medical School. She later worked as a consulting nutritionist with physicians at the Alameda County Health Clinic and the William E. Branch Clinic in Hollywood as well as seeing patients referred to her by numerous specialists.
After planning individual diets for more than 20,000 people suffering from almost every known disease, Adelle Davis gave up consulting work to devote her time to her family, lecturing and writing. She was the author of four best-selling books, Let’s Cook it Right, Let’s Have Healthy Children, Let’s Get Well and Let’s Eat Right to Keep Fit.
Leland read books, attended health lectures and loved to talk about health with anyone who would listen. He began taking nutritional supplements, beginning with vitamin E that he ordered from Sturdees, one of the first health supplement outlets in the country.
As his knowledge of nutrition expanded, Leland took more and varied nutritional supplements, seeking to focus on overall health. By 1968 he was ordering quite a variety and he began to think about ordering by bulk to keep up his supply of supplements. He also thought it would be great if he could share his newfound support system with others. He 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. It didn’t take long before Leland ordered other nutritional supplements for resale and put together a small catalog that he mailed to potential customers. Swanson Health Products was born.
Leland Swanson circa 1969 when Swanson Health Products opened its doors
When Leland decided to sell nutritional supplements and bring the potential for better health to the doorsteps of the nation, he also set ground rules for Swanson Health Products (SHP), declaring that “the satisfaction and goodwill of our valued customers is our most important asset.” He pledged to “provide the world’s finest dietary supplements at the lowest possible prices with honest, outstanding customer service.” Those founding principles form the rock upon which SHP still stands.
In 1969, when SHP began operations, Leland’s oldest son Jay was working fulltime at a bank in Fargo. Younger son Lee was still in school and helped his father as much as possible. Lee (now president of SHP) was actually the first employee of SHP. The two began offering a line of basic nutritional supplements in the 1970s and, as more people found out about the quality, pricing and service offered by SHP, the company began to grow. In 1975 Jay Swanson quit his job at the local bank and joined his father and brother to help with the expanding business. “We went from zero customers in 1969 to about 30,000 by 1979,” Lee later noted.
In 1980 SHP was operating with about 10 employees out of a storefront in downtown Fargo. In 1982 the company moved its mail order manufacturing and shipping operations to a 15,000 sq. ft. facility in Fargo’s Industrial Park.
But as the company was growing in 1982, tragedy struck. Leland Swanson died. His sons vowed to carry on the tradition that Leland had started and lived for, and headed toward Leland’s ultimate goal of “bringing wellness to the world.”
Lee Swanson, left, and his brother Jay, right, with Mark Naumann, a banker who helped Swanson Health Products in the early years
As SHP expanded, the company grew out of its warehouse facility and began renting extra space around the city of Fargo to accommodate the bulk of supplements being ordered by a society that had undergone a rebirth of health consciousness. In 1996 tragedy struck the company again when Jay Swanson died, leaving the heritage of commitment to a healthy America solely in the hands of Lee Swanson, Jr.
Now operating a company with over 200 employees, Lee announced in a general meeting of the SHP staff that the company would move on with an even greater commitment to quality products, low prices and customer service.
Under Lee’s direction, SHP has continued a rapid rate of growth. At the turn of the new millennium, SHP moved into a brand new 120,000 sq. ft. facility that allows the company to house its call center, customer care center, marketing, manufacturing, storage and shipping under one roof. The new building is currently undergoing an expansion process and more growth of the facility is planned in the immediate future. To handle the great influx of orders, manufacturing and mailing, SHP now employs 500 people.
The development of the SHP website, swansonvitamins.com in the 1990s opened another avenue of service to meet the needs of customers. The website offers products, product descriptions, and a wide variety of health-related information, all available at the fingertips of SHP customers.
As SHP grows it has a greater opportunity to give back to the community that nurtured it. SHP and its employees support Fargo and its residents through donations of time and money to numerous ventures like United Blood Services, Holiday Clearing Bureau, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Roger Maris Cancer Center, Fargo Senior Commission Meals on Wheels, Special Olympics, Family Planning/Cass County Health, United Way, and much more.
Lee Swanson, President of Swanson Health Products
“We take our responsibilities of corporate citizenship very seriously,” said Lee Swanson. "Fargo has been very good to us. This is our hometown and it is our duty to support the community in any way we can.”
Of course the main focus of SHP is taking care of its customers. “We treat people like we like to be treated,” Lee said. "One of our major concerns from the very beginning was that our customers would feel like we were treating them like real people, not just numbers or dollar signs. We believe that our customers are our most important assets. That’s why we try to deal with our customers on a personal, one-to-one basis, not through pre-recorded messages.”
“I like the way L.L. Bean Company describes a customer,” Lee said. “They say ‘a customer is the most important person ever in this company—in person or by mail. A customer is not dependent on us, we are dependent on him. A customer is not an interruption of our work, he is the purpose of it. We are not doing a favor by serving him, he is doing us a favor by giving us the opportunity to do so. A customer is not someone to argue or match wits with. Nobody ever won an argument with a customer. A customer is a person who brings us his wants. It is our job to handle them profitably to him, and to ourselves’.”
“Besides treating our customers well,” Lee said, “we are in the unique position of being able to offer products direct to customers without going through a middle-man. Because of that fact, we are able to save customers 50% to 70% on their nutritional supplement expenditures. And those savings are on some of the highest quality products in the world. We feature the top brand ingredients, like Pycnogenol® pine bark extract, CitriMax® Garcinia cambogia, LipoSan ULTRA® chitosan, Tonalin® CLA, ChromeMate™ chromium, Phase 2® white kidney bean extract, VitaBlue™ wild blueberry, Albion® chelated minerals, FloraGLO® lutein, Lyc-O-Mato® lycopene, and many more. We bend over backwards to bring these fine ingredients to our customers at the best prices possible.”
SHP goes another step beyond its competitors by offering powerful guarantees. All products are backed by a 100% Satisfaction, Money-Back Guarantee and Double the Difference Lowest Price Guarantee. If you are not satisfied with your purchase for any reason, simply return the unused portion for a full refund of the purchase price. If you find a product priced lower in any competitor’s catalog, let us know and we’ll refund you two times the price difference.
As SHP moves closer to its 40th anniversary, Lee Swanson speaks to the company’s success. “At Swanson Health Products, we treat every customer like we would treat a good friend or neighbor, and I think most people appreciate that. When you shop with Swanson, you can expect fast, friendly, personal service every time. Unlike most other companies, when you call Swanson, you get to talk to a real person, not a machine. That means if you have questions, you get answers. If you have a problem with your order, you get the personal attention you need to solve it promptly. It’s hard to put a dollar value on service like that, but I think it makes a huge difference. When all is said and done, our affordable prices are probably the main reason most of our customers first start shopping with Swanson, but our outstanding customer service is the main reason they keep coming back. It’s like my dad said back at the beginning, ‘the satisfaction and goodwill of our valued customers is our most important asset’.”
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100% of customers would shop here again.