Like many of the products it sells, Nutrition House came from an organic source. In 1979, Amelia Dominguez and her children Lilian and Aldo started out a single Nutrition House store in a mall in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough, selling natural health products to like minded customers who sought the wellness lifestyle the Dominguez family had long promoted.
Before long, an opportunity came up to open a store in Toronto’s Eaton Centre, one of the highest profile malls in the country, at the time one of the only stores of its kind in a mainstream retail centre. In 1993, Lilian married Wayne Parent. Around the same time, American conglomerate General Nutrition Centers was expanding into Canada. “We thought, let’s step it up and take it to the next level because it was a race for space,” Parent says, whose background in franchising brought expertize to execute that vision.
At that time, Parent “came on full time and started to elevate the profile of the franchise system, set it up properly, scale it and so on.” Nutrition House’s operating model of handing the business over to the franchisee only after securing the location, building it, stocking, staffing and operating the business for the first three to six months was the key to the company’s initial success.
“That really made it easy for someone to step into the industry—get an existing business with a current staff and learn while being in it,” Parent says. “That worked out quite well and really gave us some momentum and got us that critical mass that you need in franchising to be able to sustain the operations.”
Now with dozens of locations, Nutrition House is a proven success. Over 65 stores in high-profile regional shopping centres both in the U.S. and nationally, make it the leading natural health lifestyle franchise. Nutrition House has positioned itself well to capitalize on the $4 billion natural health products industry, and carries national brands of vitamins, supplements, body care and sports nutrition products and its own in-house Nutrition House Extra products.
March 2010 saw Nutrition House expand into Georgia, opening locations with the help of an area developer. “Once we can get a bit of a presence there and more exposure, we can start selling Master Franchise Territories,” Parents says. “The market is different in the U.S., you’ve got to customize the offering to the consumer.”
High quality for the good life
Nutrition House has garnered a reputation amongst its peers for quality products that deliver, which comes down to a stringent testing standard. Parent says all the Nutrition House extra products are tested with tests that “go above and beyond industry standards and what is required under the Natural Health Products Directorate.” Other products are regularly and randomly checked with certain vendors and must come with a Certificate of Analysis to ensure what is on the label is in the product. “We ensure our products are from reputable suppliers, and have Natural Product Numbers (NPNs), or have applied for and NPN by submitting a Product License Application.”
Stores are typically tailored for the market, but market predominately to the female head of household looking for complementary and natural health products for the family.
“We offer products for everyone,” says Parent, be it nutritional, sports nutrition, health and wellness or diet products. “It varies depending on market, but generally speaking our target market is women between the ages of 28 and 55.”
Education key to healthy lifestyle
“The philosophy has always been a focus on educating the consumer. To us, an educated consumer is a good consumer—the more they learn, the more they know, the more they want to know, and the more they ultimately end up buying.”
To facilitate that philosophy, Nutrition House brought on a Director of Education, Michele Sevier, that can help customers through Ask Our Experts, part of the online program where customers can get answers on Natural Health Products, find a store location, and shop online. “It’s always about providing that education component,” Parent says. Alongside quality products, knowledgeable sales people and service that are above standard, a focus on education on the website and in store is a main focus for the brand.
With its established reputation, buying power, extensive operational and nutritional training, ongoing training and support, and desire to help customers live their best life, Nutrition House is naturally one of Canada’s best brands. “We definitely always try to raise the bar.”