Herbalife Incorporates Music Into Its Health Plan: A Conversation with SVP and MD Ibi Fleming

This past April, Herbalife -- the giant nutrition company with independent distributors in over 80 countries -- made its first foray into music as a sponsor of the Billboard Latin Music conference. It was a leap for a company that, since its founding in 1980, has been focused on nutrition and well-being and associated itself with athletes and sports teams. Billboard spoke with Ibi Fleming, Sr. VP and Managing Director of Herbalife North America, who explained the connection between music, nutrition and the Latin consumer.
 

Herbalife is a very well-recognized nutrition company. Why the foray into music now?
Traditionally we’ve been associated with sports sponsorships. With this new approach, Herbalife is expanding its brand awareness to Latin music artists.
We love to expand our outreach into all the different aspects and music seemed natural.  We understand the high pressure and long hours that artists endure when they prepare for shows, so we thought it would be great for Herbalife to supply artists with high energy drinks. Although most people associate Herbalife with athletes, the reality is our products fit everybody.
 
Who is your consumer?
Everybody out there who wants to lose weight, gain more energy, gain weight. We have personalized health products. The reality is, we want to create awareness regarding good nutrition, not just as a one-time fad but as an ongoing lifestyle. Everybody needs to be aware about good nutrition and staying healthy.
 
Herbalife is known for selling its products exclusively through associates who sell one on one, versus selling in stores or online. Does this bring you closer to a Latin consumer?
Currently Latinos represent 60% of our business and there are a lot of reasons why we feel Herbalife is the right fit for Latinos. We are great with one on ones, getting together with La Familia, and Herbalife offers great business opportunities, whether you want to do it part time or full time. We really focus on the Latin consumer. We don’t just translate our information, for example. We have literature in Spanish and it’s catered to the Spanish-speaking community.
 
You are a publicly-traded company. How are you doing?
We saw 18% growth in 2012 just from the prior year. We are 33 years young in the U.S. and growing in the double digits. It’s unbelievable. It really boils down to our products.
 
Aside from sponsoring the Billboard Latin Music Conference recently,  you also produce yearly events for your sellers which feature big acts.
We hire great performers for our extravaganzas. We get together once a year and do an event for the general market and then an event for our Latin sellers, where we have some 10,000 to 15,000 people. Some of our past entertainers include Carlos Vives, Olga Tañón, Pepe Aguilar and Pedro Fernández, to name just a few.
 
What music do you work out to?
I work out to a variety of music. I love Euro Dance, House music and Latin pop, especially Latin dance mixes.