Herbalife® refers to the company, or the products sold by the company known as Herbalife International®. It is a global multi-level marketing firm which sells weight loss products, nutritional supplements, and skin care products. Along with selling these items, Herbalife® also recruits independent distributors to market them, advertising this as a business opportunity for those interested. Being one of the larger network marketing firms in the world, Herbalife® has seen its share of the controversy that nearly always attends companies of this type.
The weight loss products marketed by Herbalife® include one of their oldest products, a powdered shake mix, meant to be consumed as a meal replacement. Some of the products offered are vegetarian, kosher, or conform to other strict systems of nutritional guidelines. Those who use and market Herbalife® products claim that they are used as part of a healthy and balanced weight loss program, which includes low-calorie meals, exercise, and balanced nutrition overall.
As is the case with almost all network marketing companies, Herbalife® has been at the focus of some degree of controversy over its products as well as its methods. Those who use the weight loss products have varying results, and this is to be expected with any product or program meant to help people lose weight. It is the company's business model that has been under the most scrutiny.
The business model used by Herbalife® is defended by its supporters as a genuine way to make money and maintain health. The management itself also maintains that their business model is entirely ethical, and legal in every country in which it operates. Many critics, however, are quite harsh in their assessments of the company, highlighting unethical activities by distributors, which have led to many people losing more money than they make by selling the products.
Such perceived abuses and shady business practices have led some regulatory organizations, such as the Federal Trade Commission in the United States, to propose regulations on any company marketing business opportunities. These proposals have included such provisions as waiting periods for new distributors, as well as making pertinent information available to them, including the average earnings of other distributors. The goal of such regulation is to encourage informed decision-making, as well as discouraging unethical practices. In some cases, even the proposal of such regulations has sent the companies' stock prices significantly lower. This may be an indication that there is a certain lack of trust regarding network marketing companies and the business models they depend on.