Over last summer, almost two months since I had last stepped foot in Hudson, I received a follow request on Instagram from a new store called Hudson Nutrition. From their bio, I learned it was a healthy shake store with, as they put it, positive vibes. It seemed to me to be a little weird, but I assumed it was just trying to grow its business and was targeting young people. But over the following months, I began to learn about its dark background.

A few weeks later, a version of this store opened near my home. My friends suggested we go due to a sale where shakes were only two dollars for customer appreciation. Upon arriving at the storefront, we were immediately approached by an employee that insisted on making all of us drinks. While making the drinks, she told us about the philosophy behind the store – to give people a healthy meal alternative. She also referred to us as her friends and asked to take a picture of us to put on the store’s Instagram story. Although we were hesitant and it was somewhat awkward, we ended up going along with her.

After this incident, I could not get the idea out of my mind that something was very off. I mostly let it go until October of 2019. One day during that month, while scrolling through social media, I saw a family friend post about her new job at Cleveland Nutrition. While I noticed that all of the stores have similar names, what really caught my eye was the last line of the post: “So happy to be a part of the Herbalife family.”

Herbalife is best known from the documentary Betting on Zero, in which famous Hedge Fund Titan Bill Ackman exposes the company as a pyramid scheme. Herbalife describes their business on their website “a global multi-level marketing corporation that develops and sells nutritional products including health-and-wellness supplements for weight management personal care, general wellness and sports performance.” However, based on basic research, I easily found evidence supporting the claim that it is a pyramid scheme, indeed one that has destroyed many lives. The company often prays on new immigrants advertising the American dream.

In order to further prove the connection between the new nutrition stores and Herbalife, I investigated the website of the store. Though not explicitly stated, bits and pieces of Herbalife can be found, for example, in the background of a photo of the store owner, there is a Herbalife sign.

So what can we do? Well, Herbalife is a multinational corporation who has had some of the biggest names in the game go after them with little success, so it is unlikely that pressure towards them will have a large effect. For now, avoid going to Hudson Nutrition or any of its sister stores. Do your research on where you spend your money to make sure that you are not funding pyramid schemes.

 – Sarah Swasey ’20

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