Flora Health’s business was built out of necessity. In 1913, the father of the current owner of the company, who was a doctor and pharmacist, fell ill and feared for his life due to the severity of his illness. The worst seemed to be in his future—he was told he would have life-changing surgery—but the good doctor realized there had to be another way. He decided to try alternative medicine and his self-developed nutritional treatments cured him.
Dr. Otto Greither, grandfather of the current owner Thomas Greither, was the founder and breakthrough innovator of the products Flora currently advocates today. He dedicated his life to the discovery, production and distribution of natural health care products, and today Thomas Greither carries on his legacy.
Dr. Greither was a pioneer in natural health solutions, becoming an expert during a time when, according to Thomas, the healthcare system treated people based on traditional medicine. Greither noticed the tendency of North American people to have unhealthier lifestyles than those in Europe, and so he decided to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather. After, Greither was the first natural health product provider to carry flaxseed oil, business only grew from there.
The market for natural health food products has certainly changed through the years. Greither says the biggest change has been increased competition and trying to get your name out there. “There are more people in the market and there is more competition with larger companies. However, we have our own manufacturer, and farm our own herbs and do our own extractions, and capsulate them. We do everything from scratch. We didn’t have to advertise back then, because we were more of a manufacturer than anything else. But now, that has changed. We have to go out and tell people who we are.”
Flora now has an array of over 50 products available to customers who want to transition into a healthier lifestyle by using natural food products. “Our products range from herbal remedies and home variations to different types of oil such as flaxseed oil, our flagship product. We also offer herbal tonics, which we brought over from my father’s business in Germany.” Greither’s father still runs the German arm of the business at 85 years old.
Flora tailors to customers that are ready to take on a lifestyle change, but Greither says a lot has to changed in the larger markets—specifically grocers. “I think a lot of that has to be changed in the supermarkets, although food stores are thinking of getting more into the house and home market. Because the [food] market is growing in many ways, we have to look at our customers coming from the mass market and figure out how we can bridge that gap without alienating our primary customer base,” he explains.
The company maintains that its goal is to provide customers with the information they need, required to make important health and lifestyle choices, in addition to the products. Flora offers a variety of health information resources to answer customer questions, and also has an information hotline.
Customer service is indeed critical to the business. But the core of Flora is the nature of its products. The company, as Greither explains, relies solely on fresh products to develop its wares, and that is quite an accomplishment in an age of processing. Greither says that other than customer service and marketing to a wide customer base, the company has focused on making itself more efficient to better support its product strategy. “Last year, all the raw materials were quite expensive—raw materials, like flaxseed for example, as well as other materials, and not just organic ones. They doubled in price. So our challenge was not to raise the price of our products, but to make the company more efficient,” he explains, adding confidently, “we’ve managed to do that successfully.”
The company culture is truly an “organic” one at Flora, and according to Greither, it hasn’t really changed over the years. “We still have the same mission statement, which is about helping people to evolve in healthy ways by using our products. The focus is still very much on that core value.”
Part of being a good company is adding value to products and services. Making all their products from scratch is one thing, but Flora also grows, finishes and distributes the products. “We don’t rely on the middle man, which allows us to have super-high quality at an affordable price. Most businesses in the health foods industry (I’d say 99 per cent in the U.S.) rely on a distributor, but it costs a lot. About 20 to 30 per cent goes to distributor and a broker gets another 10 per cent. We don’t have that kind of margin so we’re doing it all in-house—one warehouse is in New York and the other is in Washington. We even have our own sales staff.”
An innovative approach sets Flora apart from its competitors, adding yet another corporate strength to the list. The company is always on the move, figuring out new ways to help the human body function. “We have the perfect oil supplement for the human body. And also a detoxification oil which is how the company really started. We’re really big on heating the body as a way for detoxing, so the organs are stimulated. You eliminate a lot of potentially fatal diseases, like cancer, this way,” Greither explains.
The future for Flora
In the shorter term, Greither says that the company will stay within its existing markets, though their geographical reach is large. The company currently employs only a small team of 350 people worldwide, and sees about 40,000 people using their specialized product line.
Flora also intends to become more environmentally friendly—the next step in the growth process. “Environmentally friendly processes are very important to us. We’re probably one of the first companies to actually go through this eco-friendly cycle. Our buildings are designed to let the sun in and our people are happy because they are working in energy-efficient facilities. It’s a big priority. We also contribute because people are using less energy-consuming products, less chemicals, less medical treatments and that in itself is good for the environment.”
Clearly, Flora is dedicated to listening to its customers and staying ahead of the game to innovate new products. And having control from the farm to the bottle only fortifies their market position: “We have control from the bottom to top—the quality is right there from the beginning; there’s nothing left to chance. We don’t buy materials from overseas; it’s all American-made,” Greither beams. And with so many unhealthy products out there, it is certain that business can only boom for Flora Inc.
“It’s important for people to try to heal themselves before they run to the doctor, because with healthcare costs going up, people must take responsibility of their own bodies.”